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Islamic World News ( 3 March 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Advocacy Group Warns LGBTQ Rights Bill in Michigan Could Encroach On Religious Liberty

New Age Islam News Bureau

03 March 2023

 

 Muslim advocacy group argues a proposed law change encroaches on religious freedom. Photo: Fox News

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• Israel Does Not Need A Death Penalty — They Execute Us In The Streets Already, Say Palestinians

• No Compromise With Extremism, All Should Unite To Rebuild The Country: Kerala Muslim Jamaat

• Iran Is New Centre of Al-Qaeda Impacting Iran’s Ties With The Rest Of The World, Says Former US Special Representative Khalilzad

• Malaysian Film Directors Association Wants Indie 'Mentega Terbang’ Director To Apologise To Viewers And Muslim Community

 

North America

• A Fairfax, Virginia, Controversial School Board Member Endorsed Curriculum That Removes 'Islamic Terror' From 9/11 History Lessons

• US ‘deeply concerned’ over poisoning of Iranian schoolgirls

• US waiting for UN nuclear watchdog meetings in Iran before deciding next steps

• Report blames US presidents for instigating collapse of Afghan military

• US ‘alarmed’ at Tunisia’s ‘escalating pattern’ of arrests

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Mideast

• Iranian President Urges Europe Not to Turn into Launch Pad for Anti-Tehran Conspiracies

• Israel passes initial reading of death penalty bill for terror offenders

• Iranian Minister Underlines Necessity for Further Strengthening of D-8

• Iran Registers Over 350 New Coronavirus Cases, 6 Deaths

• Israeli forces kill Palestinian teen in surging West Bank violence

• Israeli campaign raises funds for torched Palestinian town in occupied West Bank

• Frenchman still in Iran prison despite acquittal: Lawyer

• Israel urges Brazil to undock Iranian warships

• IAEA’s Grossi to travel to Iran, seeking breakthrough on cooperation

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India

• Should Dalit Christians, Muslims Get Quota Benefits? RSS Body To Discuss Issue

• Hindutva Goons, Right-Wing Worker Radha Semwal Dhoni And Her Colleagues, Demolish Mazar; Claim It Was Built On State Land

• ₹ 5 Lakh Compensation For Families Of 2 Muslim Men Burnt Alive In Haryana

• Has India Forgotten Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, The Country’s First Education Minister And A Champion Of Hindu-Muslim Unity?

• Lucknow District Officials Meet Muslim Clerics, Discuss Peaceful Holi & Shab-e-Barat Celebrations

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South Asia

• Afghan diplomats return to Turkey and Iran as Taliban pushes for relations thaw

• Rohingya refugees decry ‘devastating’ cuts to food aid

• Six TTP Members Killed in Afghanistan’s Khost IED Blast

• UNAMA Chief Meets IEA Minister, Discusses Education in Afghanistan

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Southeast Asia

• Thailand launches e-guidebook for foodies and Muslim tourists

• Malaysia seeks deeper ties with Saudi Arabia after Hajj minister’s visit

• Umno Islamic council’s ‘Ennahda-like’ trimmings

• PM Anwar wants sufficient allocations to be channelled to flood victims

• In Johor, mosques in flood areas to open as temporary flood relief centres

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Arab World

• Arab Nations Condemn Israeli Minister’s “Racist” Palestine Comments

• Hidden Corridor Discovered Near Main Entrance Of Great Pyramid Of Giza

• Saudi Film Commission Participates In Berlin International Film Festival

• UN chief urges nations to repatriate citizens from Syria camp

• UAE astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi docks at the International Space Station

• Uneasy calm in Lebanon refugee camp following armed clashes

• AlUla visitor center’s highly trained local employees plan authentic experiences for guests

• Saudi FM discusses bilateral relations with counterparts at G20 summit

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Africa

• Libya Approves Constitutional Fix But No Big Breakthrough To Elections

• Tunis governor refuses protest permit citing alleged plot

• Human Rights Commission head meets Sudan justice minister in Geneva

• Experts share views on new UN proposal for election process in Libya

• Peter Obi challenges winner of Nigeria presidential election Bola Tinubu

• Protests greet Macron on Africa tour, Burkina Faso scraps military pact

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Europe

• Manchester Arena Inquiry Finds MI5 Missed Significant Chance To Prevent Suicide Bombing

• UK pledges to work with European allies to support Turkish quake victims

• US, UK congratulate Tinubu on Nigeria election win as legal challenge looms

• British navy seizes 'anti-tank weapons, ballistic missile components' in Gulf of Oman

• France says Iran uranium enrichment ‘very concerning’

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Pakistan

• Supervisors Must Act As Mentors, Not Punishers, Rules Supreme Court

• Pakistanis paying heavily for Bajwa’s ‘regime change conspiracy’: Imran

• FIA nabs ‘traffickers’; FO confirms 7 deaths in Libya wreck

• ‘Militants’ killed, Nadra office attacked in Kech

• PPP, MQM-P Not Ready To Soften Their Stance On Census

• JI, PPP trade barbs as controversy over Jan 15 LG polls’ results re-emerges

• US to provide modern equipment to KP police, says envoy

• Jadhav remains a living proof of Indian hostility, state-sponsored terrorism against Pakistan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:  https://newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/muslim-advocacy-lgbtq-religious/d/129239

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 Muslim Advocacy Group Warns LGBTQ Rights Bill in Michigan Could Encroach On Religious Liberty

 

Muslim advocacy group argues a proposed law change encroaches on religious freedom. Photo: Fox News

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By Joshua Q. Nelson

A Muslim advocacy group told Fox News Digital that an LGBTQ rights bill in Michigan is likely "unconstitutional" due to its encroachment on religious freedom.

The Counsel of American Islamic Relations [CAIR] launched a petition urging lawmakers to add religious protections to proposed amendments to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), which seeks to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The ELCRA has provided protections for Michiganders based on religion, race, sex and other demographics since 1976. LGBTQ advocates have been pushing to be included in the bill for years to ensure they don't face discrimination.

However, while expanding the rights for LGBTQ members, the bill could remove protections for faith-based organizations that believe marriage is between one man and one woman, or biological differences between men and women.

"CAIR Michigan believes along with some other religious groups that have done the policy and the legal research that there are provisions of this bill that could be struck down as unconstitutional including that provision that requires that covenant," CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Amy Doukoure told Fox News Digital.

The proposed amendment to ELCRA was introduced last month and received support from Democrats and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Doukoure said that officials are "cramming this legislation through" and "have not yet agreed to meet with their religious constituents that have religious concerns over this bill."

Catholic and Protestant groups and Republicans also challenged the bill alongside Muslims. These groups are concerned that the bill could lead to discrimination against religious and conservative people, as well as expose them to potential lawsuits if they believe in the traditional marriage of one man and a woman and their views on biological differences between men and women.

Doukoure said that CAIR partnered with the Michigan Catholic Conference, which is the main lobbying and advocacy wing of the Catholic Church in Michigan, in calling for religious protections in the bill.

"They have a lot of lobbying power. They testified in front of the Senate about the Senate version of this bill," she said.

"We work with them on a regular basis in matters where our interests align in the preservation of religious freedoms," Doukoure said.

CAIR’s petition received more than triple the signatures than their goal of 500. The petition is intended to urge lawmakers to add reasonable language to any expansion of the ELCRA to provide religious protections in order to prevent "expensive and lengthy" litigation over First Amendment rights.

"We’re standing ready to provide legal defense to any institution and organization that is at risk and has a risk of losing contracts and not being able to obtain contracts with the government as it relates to the state of Michigan because of the provisions of ELCRA that will prohibit that," Doukoure said.

She went on to say, "All of the other states that have passed the legislation have done so with religious protections. Michigan wants to be different. They want to be an outlier. And we don't understand why of the other 22 states have passed it, why Michigan can't include the language."

Doukoure also noted that it's important for people to realize that CAIR is asking the Michigan legislature to add in language that has already been adopted by the courts.

"The language we're asking for and the requirements or the provisions that we're asking for have already been adopted by the courts as being reasonable accommodations, reasonable religious expression. And we want it added in simply for the fact that we don't want to have to litigate this in court," she said.

Fox News Digital has reached out to the sponsor of the bill, Jeremy Moses, for comment on Doukoure's claims. Moses said that CAIR never reached out to his office. However, he said that he did have a meeting with the Michigan Catholic Conference and they "could not come to an agreement on amendment language."

"We left these conversations with disagreement on the bill but with mutual respect," Moses told Fox News Digital.

"As for 'cramming the bill through,' this bill was first introduced in 1983 before I was born. It has been reintroduced every session since I was first elected," he said, pushing back against Doukoure's claim that the legislation is being "crammed through."

"This session, the bill was introduced Jan. 12. There was a committee hearing on Feb. 2. There was a second committee hearing on Feb. 9, and it was voted to the floor of the Senate. Everyone who wanted to submit testimony could. CAIR did not," Moses said.

He continued, "The bill was open for amendments on the floor on Feb. 21. None were offered. The bill was open for debate on March 1. Three of these religious amendments were offered, all were debated and, in a majority vote, were defeated. That is the majoritarian and democratic process. During the final vote, all senators had the chance to debate the bill. One senator spoke in opposition, unimpeded, for 30 minutes. It passed with a bipartisan vote. It is now in the House, where the process there will begin."

The Michigan Senate will be voting on proposed amendments to the ELCRA through Senate Bill 4.

Joshua Q. Nelson is a reporter for Fox News Digital.

Joshua focuses on politics, education policy ranging from the local to the federal level, and the parental uprising in education.

Joining Fox News Digital in 2019, he previously graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Political Science and is an alum of the National Journalism Center and the Heritage Foundation's Young Leaders Program.

Source: Fox News

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.foxnews.com/media/michigan-muslim-group-calls-religious-protections-proposed-lgbt-rights-bill

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Israel Does Not Need A Death Penalty — They Execute Us In The Streets Already, Say Palestinians

 

Israeli troops take up positions during clashes with Palestinians following a raid at the entrance to Aqabat Jaber refugee camp near the West Bank city of Jericho on March 1, 2023. (AP)

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Mohammed Najib

March 02, 2023

RAMALLAH: Palestinians have denounced a draft Israeli law to execute Palestinians found guilty of terrorism, which passed its first stage in the Israeli Knesset this week.

The legislation, proposed by Internal Security Minister and leader of the extremist Jewish Power party Itamar Ben-Gvir,  cleared its preliminary reading on Wednesday and is expected to pass the second and third stages to become law.

Palestinians consider it steeped in racism, while some members of Israel’s security services have warned that the law would motivate rather than deter more attacks on Israelis.

It has already faced opposition from Israeli human rights institutions and calls for the country’s supreme court to strike it down as inconsistent with international and humanitarian laws.

Qadura Faris, the president of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told Arab News that a specific death penalty would serve no purpose other than to expose Israel as a “backward, fascist, apartheid state, living in the past.”

“This law only targets Palestinians. This is a new confirmation that there are two laws in the same geographical area: one for the Israelis and the other for the Palestinians. This is racism,” he said.

He added that the death penalty would “not add to our worries … we are extrajudicially killed daily without reason … [Israel] carries out extensive executions against Palestinians daily outside the law.

“We know that Ben-Gvir’s insistence on proposing this law comes within the framework of a process of blackmail.”

Rawhi Fattouh, the head of the Palestinian National Council, agreed, saying: “Israel does not need laws to carry out field executions against our people as it practices it daily and with false pretexts.”

Israel currently uses a life sentence equivalent to 99 years of imprisonment against Palestinians who kill Israelis. There are more than 550 inmates in Israeli prisons sentenced under this law.

Yousef Jabarin, a lecturer and former member of the Israeli parliament, told Arab News that the law was a result of fierce competition between extreme right-wing Israeli politicians to look the most draconian.

Jabarin said that even if the law was passed, there was a possibility that the supreme court would refuse it.

Maj. Gen. Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the commission for detainees and ex-prisoners affairs, said that Palestinian activists did not fear execution and that “Israel would pay the price for approving the law.”

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has called on the US to arrest David Ben-Zion, the deputy head of the Settlement Council in the occupied West Bank who is currently in the US.

The ministry said that Ben-Zion called on Israeli settlers to attack Hawara town in the days before hundreds went on the rampage earlier this week.

It said an arrest would be far more significant than asking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize for his minister’s “disgusting” comments.

Meanwhile, a comprehensive strike took place in Jericho and the Jordan Valley in protest at the killing of Mahmoud Hamdan, 22, who died during the Israeli army’s incursion into the Aqbat Jabr camp on Tuesday.

Israeli troops and settlers have killed  67 Palestinians since the beginning of the year, including 13 children, and four elderly.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2261311/middle-east

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No Compromise With Extremism, All Should Unite To Rebuild The Country: Kerala Muslim Jamaat

 

'Kerala Muslim Jamaath general secretary Syed Ibrahim Khaleelul Buhari inaugurating the state delegate conference of Jamaath at Marine Drive in Kochi

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03rd March 2023

KOCHI: The political and social situation in India has grown more complex and all should unite to rebuild the country, said Kerala Muslim Jamaat general secretary Syed Ibraheemul Khaleel ul Bukhari. Jamaat is neither close nor far from politics and maintains good relations with all politicians, he said while inaugurating the state delegate conference of Kerala Muslim Jamaath at Marine Drive in Kochi on Thursday. He said the nation belongs to the people and nobody has the right to question the patriotism of a citizen.

“The politics of grabbing power by dividing people and spreading hatred is dangerous. The minority in the country, especially the Muslims are facing a crisis. The situation that questions the existence and future of Muslims should be seriously debated,” said Bukhari.

He said the Muslim Jamaath will not compromise with extremism. The Jamaath has adopted an independent stand above politics. All citizens should be provided housing, power, water, and education. The Jamaath will extend the Kerala model of Islamic functioning across the country, he added.

The meeting demanded the Union government withdraw the hike in the price of  LPG cylinders.

Samastha president E Sulaiman Musliyar presided over the meeting. Kerala Muslim Jamaath president Kanthapuram A P Aboobaker Musliyar delivered the message and leaders from across the state spoke on the occasion.

The meeting elected Kanthapuram A P Aboobaker Musliyar as president, Syed Ibraheemul Khaleelul Bukhari as general secretary and Abdul Karim Haji Chaliyam as finance secretary.

Source: New Indian Express

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2023/mar/03/no-compromise-with-extremismkerala-muslim-jamaath-2552552.html

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Iran Is New Centre of Al-Qaeda Impacting Iran’s Ties With The Rest Of The World, Says Former US Special Representative Khalilzad

 

The former US special representative for the reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad

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By Fidel Rahmati

March 2, 2023

The former US special representative for the reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said that Iran “would be the centre of Al-Qaeda,” impacting Iran’s ties with the rest of the world.

In an interview with Tolonews, Khalilzad said Iran would serve as the group’s centre more than anywhere else.

“Once Afghanistan was a centre for Al-Qaeda, but Al-Qaeda has changed, and its small groups have become a network in various world areas. However, if any centre exists, it should be Iran,” he said.

Earlier, he also wrote on his tweeter that Iran had increased its reliance on terror groups against its opponents at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, the US State Department said in February that Said al-Adel, an Iran-based Egyptian, has become the head of Al-Qaeda following the July 2022 death of Ayman al-Zawahiri.

“Our assessment aligns with that of the UN – that Al-Qaeda’s new de facto leader Saif al-Adel is based in Iran,” a state department spokesperson said.

Despite this, the group has not formally declared him “emir” because it is sensitive to the concerns of the Taliban authority in Afghanistan, according to a UN assessment.

Khalilzad added, “The growing Iranian threat warrants the US and its allies to isolate further and weaken the Iranian regime’s international legitimacy.”

Meanwhile, he said that the shift in terrorism’s trajectory was one of the reasons for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Source: Khaama Press

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.khaama.com/132131-2/

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Malaysian Film Directors Association Wants Indie 'Mentega Terbang’ Director To Apologise To Viewers And Muslim Community

 

Mentega Terbang

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By Arif Zikri

03 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — The Malaysian Film Directors Association (FDAM) is disappointed with the content of controversial indie film Mentega Terbang.

FDAM’s president, Datuk Ahmad Ibrahim via a press statement said that they were taking the matter seriously as it touched on the sensitivity of the Muslim community in the country and for spreading messages that go against the Islamic creed.

Ahmad said that the film’s director, Khairil Anwar, who is a member of FDAM, failed in terms of philosophical aspect and clearly breached the ethics of directing.

“FDAM felt that the public don’t have to watch the film to criticise it because the dialog and scenes are clearly insulting to Islam.

“There’s no need to watch this kind of film.

“Just through a couple of scenes such as the dialog between the father and the daughter on choosing religion and the dialog on consuming pork have shown a clear message,” Ahmad said in the statement.

FDAM will be taking action against the director by calling him in to give explanation regarding the controversial issue and demand Khairil apologise to viewers and the Muslim community.

“Sensitive issues relating to religion are not something to be trifled with, be it through acting or anything else.

“In fact, the Federal Constitution has stated that Islam is the official religion in the country and Malaysians should respect each other’s religion,” he said.

Ahmad added that FDAM also thinks that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) should take action against the film as suggested by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

Mentega Terbang which touches on the differences and similarities of the major religions in Malaysia has prompted complaints from the public following its release on streaming platform, Viu.

After a quick check on Viu, the Anomalist Productions film which was released in January this year has been removed from the platform.

Source: Malay Mail

Please click the following URL to read the text of the original story:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/showbiz/2023/03/03/malaysian-film-directors-association-wants-mentega-terbang-director-to-apologise-to-viewers-and-muslim-community/57754

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North America

 

A Fairfax, Virginia, Controversial School Board Member Endorsed Curriculum That Removes 'Islamic Terror' From 9/11 History Lessons

March 2, 2023

A Fairfax, Virginia, school board member recommended curriculum materials for teachers to use for their lesson plans which opposed using terms such as "radical Islamic terror," "Islamic terrorists" and "jihadists" when discussing the history of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Abrar Omeish is a school board member and Georgetown law student who has become marred in controversy over a series of controversial statements. In one instance, she refused to vote on a motion to commemorate 9/11 victims.

Fox News Digital found that in 2021 Omeish recommended public school teachers use a "culturally responsive" curriculum guide for their lesson plans about 9/11 history.

It said, "Do not frame the lessons as a chance to explore the definition of terrorism or a clash of two different societies/cultures."

"There is much disagreement about what terrorism means, and it’s often used in a biased manner," the guide continued.

Teachers should screen themselves for biases against Arab-Muslims using an online test before educating students on 9/11, it recommended. To create a "safe space" teachers should "wear cultural items from Muslim countries as a show of support (e.g., scarf)."

In order to be "culturally responsive," teachers should focus "on the impact of 9/11 on communities of color, including Muslim Americans," the guide said.

Teachers should bring up "Islamophobia at the structural level (policies that were enacted at national, state, and local levels) and individual level (policies at the individual level, outside of government)."

"Muslim communities… responses of resilience but also depression and anxiety" should also be raised about the topic.

Fox News Digital reached out to Omeish for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Omeish was accused of attacking 9/11 victims after she refused to vote on a resolution to honor the lives of 2,977 Americans killed by al-Qaida terrorists on 9/11.

The resolution was not "anti-racist" enough and failed to address "state-sponsored traumas" experienced by Muslims, she appeared to suggest. A local Fairfax County editorial board called the rhetoric "callous."

The local GOP called for Omeish's ouster, stating, "Her cruel attacks on the memory of 9/11’s victims and heroes should be the last straw. They were not just incredibly tone deaf — they were vicious and, frankly, anti-American."

Omeish said, "I vote against this today, because our omission of these realities causes harm. We're levitating a traumatic event without sufficient cultural competence. The token phrasing around 9/11 is 'Never Forget.' As a nation we remember a jarring event, no doubt, but we chose to forget, as this resolution does, the fear, the ostracization, and the collective blame felt by Arab Americans, American Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus and all brown or other individuals that have been mistaken for Muslims since that day over the past two decades."

"Why are we forgetting the experience of these families, their traumas?' Omeish asked. "I hope we can include these components in our broader anti-racist, [and] anti-bias work."

Omeish was also named in a complaint to the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights by the Zionist Organization of America on anti-Semitism in Fairfax. The DOE agreed to investigate anti-Semitism in Fairfax as a result of the letter.

In May 2021, Omeish tweeted that Israel "desecrates the Holy Land" and engages in "apartheid and colonization" as its civilian areas were bombarded with Hamas rockets.

"Anyone who thinks Israel is an apartheid state is either historically illiterate with no understanding of how apartheid operated in South Africa or is willfully lying in the name of demonizing Israel. Some Fairfax County residents demanded the School Board censure Omeish for her comments," Virginia's 11th Congressional District GOP Chairman Michael Ginsberg told Fox News.

The executive director of the pro-school choice EdReform Virginia, Nathan Brinkman, said the woke agenda Omeish is pushing shows the importance of school choice:

"To be fair, some families might actually want Omeish's 'woke' social justice worldview to inform their kids' education. That would be fine, as long as the rest of us are free to send our kids — and our kids' educational tax dollars — to schools that reflect our values, too."

On Thursday, and soon after the 78th anniversary of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, Omeish called the battle "unfortunate" and "evil" during a school board meeting.

The Battle of Iwo Jima – which lasted from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945 – was a significant victory for the U.S. during World War II. Nearly 7,000 American service members were killed while trying to capture the island from Japan.

"Just a few days ago was Japanese Day of Remembrance," Omeish said during the meeting. "Something for us to certainly reflect on … the days when, you know, Iwo Jima unfortunately happened and set a record for really what, I hate to say, human evil is capable of."

Following the controversy over her remarks, Omeish released a statement to Fox News.

"I would like to set the record straight," she said. "Before the battle at Iwo Jima in Feb 1945, Japan knew it could not defend the island, but its Government still demanded its military forces to fight to the death. Even though Lieutenant General Kuribayashi knew there was no possibility of winning the battle, Prime Minster Hideki Tojo sent him on a suicidal mission to inflict as many casualties as possible on allied forces and to never surrender. The unnecessary spilling of blood was not right."
Source: Fox News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.foxnews.com/media/controversial-school-board-member-endorsed-curriculum-removes-islamic-terror-9-11-history-lessons

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US ‘deeply concerned’ over poisoning of Iranian schoolgirls

03 March ,2023

The US expressed deep concern on Thursday over reports of hundreds of Iranian schoolgirls being targeted in a wave of poisoning attacks and called on Iran to investigate the incidents.

In the past three months, hundreds of cases of respiratory distress have been reported among schoolgirls, and one government official said the poisonings could be an attempt to force the closure of girls’ schools in the country.

“It’s deeply concerning news coming out of Iran,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said.

“Truth is, we don’t know right now what caused those ailments. We see reports that the Iranian government are investigating it, that’s the right course of action,” he added.

“We want those investigations to be thorough and complete, and we want them to be transparent. Little girls going to school should only have to worry about learning. They shouldn’t have to worry about their own physical safety, but we just don’t know enough right now.”

Kirby’s comments received some criticism on social media, with some highlighting the general lack of transparency in the regime.

“How can the Biden administration expect Iran’s regime to conduct a “transparent” investigation into the chemical attacks? How did the Mahsa Amini “investigation” pan out?” Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), wrote on Twitter, referring to the 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman whose death in police custody in September triggered months of anti-regime protests.

“Lies. The system is based on opacity, corruption, gaslighting, and coverups,” added Brodsky.

On Thursday, state media reported that 21 female university students were taken to hospital after they were poisoned in their dormitory in the city of Karaj, west of the capital Tehran.

On Wednesday, at least 10 girls’ schools were targeted with poisoning attacks, seven in the northwestern city of Ardabil and three in the capital, according to state media.

Deputy health minister Younes Panahi said last week that the poisonings were aimed at shutting down education for girls.

Some Iranians, including prominent activists, have accused the regime of being responsible for the attacks. They believe that the poisonings, which comes more than five months after protests that spread across Iran following Amini’s death, are deliberate and a form of “revenge” against schoolgirls for participating in the protests.

Amini died on September 16 after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress rules for women. Her death triggered months of protests that quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/03/US-deeply-concerned-over-poisoning-of-Iranian-school-girls

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US waiting for UN nuclear watchdog meetings in Iran before deciding next steps

03 March ,2023

The US is waiting for the head of the UN nuclear watchdog to meet with Iranian officials this weekend before deciding on its next steps in response to Tehran’s nuclear escalations, a State Department official said Wednesday.

“We understand IAEA Director General Grossi will be in Tehran for high-level meetings this weekend, and we await the results of those discussions as well as issuance of his report on NPT related issues,” the spokesperson told Al Arabiya English.

According to diplomats taking part in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the UK, France, and Germany have tabled a proposal to censure Iran at the next International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting.

But the unnamed diplomats, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, said that the Biden administration is against this choice.

Asked about these reports, the State Department official said they would wait for IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi to finish his meetings and issue his report on Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) issues.

“We will not detail those diplomatic conversations,” the official said about discussions between the US and its European allies.

The number three Pentagon official said this week that Iran was capable of making enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb in “about 12 days.”

The IAEA has reportedly detected uranium enriched to 84 percent purity in Iran, making it one of the highest levels reported and close to weapons-grade, which is around 90 percent.

“We remain extremely concerned by Iran’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA, as well as by its provocative nuclear escalations that have no legitimate civilian purpose,” the State Department official said on Wednesday. “We will continue to support the IAEA in its efforts and call on Iran to fully comply with its legally-binding international obligations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA.”

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/03/US-waiting-for-IAEA-meetings-in-Iran-before-taking-next-step

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Report blames US presidents for instigating collapse of Afghan military

Barry Ellsworth 

03.03.2023

TRENTON, Canada

The decision to withdraw forces by two US commanders in chief was the major factor that caused a domino effect leading to the collapse of the Afghan military which left the country open to the Taliban to resume control, a special investigative report released Thursday concluded.

The 113-page report answers the question of what went wrong in Afghanistan, and the conclusions are damning. In effect, the report said the US wasted its money, to say nothing of lives lost.

"The decision by two U.S. presidents to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan fundamentally altered every subsequent decision by U.S. government agencies," the report said, and that "ultimately accelerated the collapse of the ANDSF (Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces) in August 2021.

"But the stage had been set for that collapse long before—by the failure of the U.S. and Afghan governments to create an independent and self-sustainable ANDSF, despite 20 years and $90 billion of international support."

The report was compiled by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction at the request of the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform as well as the US House Armed Services Committee.

The two committees wanted to know why the US and its allies lost in Afghanistan despite almost 20 years of fighting support, training and billions of dollars spent.

Again, the report returned to the central flaw in the US strategy -- the untimely withdrawal over a period of years of its military forces.

"Due to the ANDSF’s dependency on U.S. military forces, the decision to withdraw all U.S. military personnel and dramatically reduce U.S. support to the ANDSF destroyed the morale of Afghan soldiers and police," the report said.

The Afghan forces relied on the US military to protect it against "large-scale ANDSF losses" and to hold the government accountable for ensuring the ANDSF were paid their salaries, the report said.

"The U.S.-Taliban agreement signed under the Trump administration in 2020 made it clear that this was no longer the case, resulting in a sense of abandonment within the ANDSF and the Afghan population," the report said.

In August 2021, the ANDSF, which was supposed to be "independent, self-sustaining and able to defend against internal and external threats," collapsed when the US made the decision to withdraw from the country, the report said.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, then commander of the International Security Assistance Force, had warned the Senate Armed Services Committee as early as 2014 that once coalition forces withdrew, the Afghan security forces "will begin to deteriorate."

Then an agreement was signed that ended US military support.

"On February 29, 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed a bilateral agreement in Doha, Qatar, stipulating that the United States would withdraw all U.S. military personnel and contractors from Afghanistan," the report said.

"The United States signed the agreement despite the fact that the ANDSF was still dependent on the U.S. military for support.

"In return, the Taliban promised not to attack the United States or allow attacks from Afghanistan on the United States or its allies and to enter into intra-Afghan peace negotiations."

Within a few months of the signing, the Taliban went on the offensive.

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/report-blames-us-presidents-for-instigating-collapse-of-afghan-military/2835903

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US ‘alarmed’ at Tunisia’s ‘escalating pattern’ of arrests

03 March ,2023

The United States on Thursday slammed what it called an “escalating pattern” of arrests in Tunisia of opposition figures, and expressed concern over reports that people who were in contact with US diplomats in Tunis are being targeted.

“We are alarmed by reports of criminal charges against individuals in Tunisia resulting from meetings or conversations with US embassy staff on the ground,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Price said the alleged criminal charges were part of “an escalating pattern of arrests against perceived critics of the government.

The spokesman refused to identify any of the people believed to have been targeted, nor did he offer any details about their meetings with US diplomats, but he said any such meetings were legitimate.

“The primary role for any US embassy, for any diplomat anywhere in the world, is to meet with a wide array of individuals to inform our understanding of the different views and perspectives in that country,” Price said.

“This is the work of diplomacy, it is the bread and butter of our diplomats... and it is a practice that should not be subject to persecution of a source.”

On Tuesday, Tunisia’s foreign ministry reminded diplomats to “not interfere” in the country’s internal affairs, following reports that political figures who have been arrested had prior contact with Western diplomats.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/north-africa/2023/03/03/US-alarmed-at-Tunisia-s-escalating-pattern-of-arrests-

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Mideast

 

Iranian President Urges Europe Not to Turn into Launch Pad for Anti-Tehran Conspiracies

2023-March-2 

Rayeesi made the remarks during a telephone conversation with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Wednesday.

"The European countries' territories should not serve as a source of plot and threats against the Iranian nation's interests," the president stated.

Iran is inclined to preserve and enhance favorable and constructive relations with the rest of the world, including Europe, he added.

Iran's president, however, cautioned foreign governments, including those in the continent, to avoid coming under the influence of false information that are propagated by anti-Tehran movements.

"If a government chooses the path of confrontation under the influence of the false and misleading information [that are provided] by terrorist and mercenary movements, it stands to lose," he continued.

President Rayeesi also expressed concern about some European countries' provision of support for Islamophobic activities.

Several European countries are accused of enabling "state-sponsored" Islamophobia by contributing to systematic suppression of their Muslim communities and tolerating sacrilegious insults against the Abrahamic religion.

"The Islamic Republic is inclined to resolve [its] issues [with others] through recourse to a cooperative approach, of course, on the condition that the other side opts for such an approach too," the Iranian president noted.

The Belgian official, for his part, laid emphasis on the important development of relations between the two sides given their 130-year-old history of diplomatic relations.

"Belgium always chooses the path of dialogue towards the reinforcement of its relations with Iran, and is inclined to resolve various issues through [recourse to] an approach that is based on understanding and cooperation," he stated.

Iranian officials have repeatedly lashed out at the US and certain Eauropean countries for sheltering and supporting terror groups.

After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) terror organization began its enmity against Iran by killing thousands of Iranians and terrorist activities. Several members of the terrorist group and its leaders are living in European countries now, freely conducting terrorist activities.

The MKO terrorist group has martyred 17,161 Iranian citizens and officials, including late president Mohammad Ali Rajayee, former Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar, late Head of Supreme Judicial Council Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, late Deputy Chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff Ali Sayyad Shirazi, and 27 legislators, as well as four nuclear scientists, some on itself and some others through collusion with Israeli Mossad and other notorious spy agencies like CIA.

The MKO terrorist group has publicly specified targets as martyred Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, who commanded the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Iranian President Rayeesi.

The terrorist organization said it would “welcome” their assassination, adding that it desired for the ranking officials to “join” Asadollah Lajevardi, Tehran’s former chief prosecutor, and Ali Sayyad-Shirazi, a former commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces during Iraq’s 1980-88 war against Iran, who have both been assassinated by the terror outfit.

The MKO is currently based in Albania, where it enjoys freedom of activity after being delisted by the European Union and the United States in 2009 and 2012, respectively.

The terror group regularly hosts big events in which top US and European officials make speeches in support of the group. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Advisor John Bolton and former Vice President Mike Pence met with the terror group’s leader several times, voiced their support for the notorious cult.

In mid-July, Iran slapped sanction on several US individuals and officials for their support for the MKO terrorist group, stating Washington continues assisting the terrorist group which has its hands stained with the blood of thousands of Iranian civilians.

The sanctioned US diplomats include Pompeo, Bolton, Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and several others.

Source: Fars News Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/14011211000155/Iranian-Presiden-Urges-Erpe-N-Trn-in-Lanch-Pad-fr-Ani-Tehran

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Israel passes initial reading of death penalty bill for terror offenders

Burak Dağ  

02.03.2023

The Israeli Knesset, or parliament, in a preliminary reading Wednesday passed a bill that would legalize capital punishment for those who are charged with terrorism offenses.

The bill was approved by 55 to nine votes, according to a statement.

The controversial bill states that someone who kills an Israeli citizen with a racist motive or for the purpose of harming the state of Israel should be sentenced to death.

The proposed bill must be approved and enacted in three voting sessions to be held in the Knesset after being accepted by the government.

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/israel-passes-initial-reading-of-death-penalty-bill-for-terror-offenders/2834962

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Iranian Minister Underlines Necessity for Further Strengthening of D-8

2023-March-2

Mehrabian made the remarks in a meeting with D-8 Secretary-General Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam in Tehran on Wednesday.

The minister said that Iran has been a key member of the D-8 since its inception in 1997 and has always supported the organization and its objectives.

“Other regional organizations have performed better than the D-8 in recent years. Thus it is necessary for the D-8 to return to its core missions,” he continued, adding that member states should seek to set aside their differences and commit to their responsibilities vis-à-vis the organization. 

Mehrabian noted he welcomes a proposal by Iranian Foreign Ministry to hold a summit of D-8 energy ministers in Tehran.

Imam, for his part, said the D-8 secretariat seeks to activate more trade potentials between members of the organization.

He added trade between D-8 members could reach some $500 billion by 2030, up from a current figure of $137 billion per year.

Source: Fars News Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/14011211000255/Iranian-Miniser-Underlines-Necessiy-fr-Frher-Srenghening-f-D-

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Iran Registers Over 350 New Coronavirus Cases, 6 Deaths

2023-March-2

"A sum of 358 new patients infected with COVID-19 have been identified in the country based on confirmed diagnosis criteria during the past 24 hours," the Iranian Health Ministry's Public Relations Center said on Thursday, and added, "154 patients have been hospitalized during the same time span."

It further announced that the total number of COVID-19 patients has increased to 7,569,261.

"Unfortunately, seven patients have lost their lives in the past 24 hours, increasing the number of the dead to 144,864," the ministry noted.

It expressed satisfaction that 7,339,518 coronavirus patients have recovered or been discharged from hospitals so far.

The center went on to say that 312 cases infected with COVID-19 are in critical conditions.

It added that 55,305,428 coronavirus diagnosis tests have so far been carried out across the country.

The health ministry public relations warned that 6 cities is orange, 94 cities are yellow, and 348 cities are blue.

Coronavirus figures and deaths have been on a downward trend since the government started a mass vaccination campaign.

In a televised interview in May, Iranian President Seyed Ebrahim Rayeesi touched on the reopening of businesses and schools after a successful vaccination campaign, saying that "today, in addition to importing vaccines, we also have a very high capacity to produce vaccines in the country and even export them”.

The president said his government's measures have brought down the number of daily deaths from the coronavirus pandemic to a one-digit number from hundreds.

The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting approximately all countries and territories around the world. The virus was first reported in the Central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. It has so far killed over 6.8 million people and infected over 680 million others globally.

The Iranian foreign ministry declared that despite Washington’s claims of cooperation to transfer drugs to Iran via the new Swiss-launched payment mechanism, the US is troubling the process amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Although the US claims that medicines and medical equipment are not under sanctions, they have practically blocked the transfer of Iran’s financial resources in other countries into the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), former Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said.

In relevant remarks in August, Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber rapped Washington and its allies for imposing banking sanctions that prevent Iran’s efforts to buy drugs and medical equipment amid a surge in the number of coronavirus infected and deaths in the country.

“Although the arrogant system (led by the US) claims that access to medicine is free for all people and there is no restriction for any country when we want to purchase the needed medicine, they do not allow transfer of money and prevent the drugs’ imports,” Mokhber said, addressing a meeting in Tehran.

Source: Fars News Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/14011211000576/Iran-Regisers-Over-350-New-Crnavirs-Cases-6-Deahs

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Israeli forces kill Palestinian teen in surging West Bank violence

02 March ,2023

Israeli forces shot dead a 15-year-old Palestinian in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Palestinian officials said.

Ahmad Enaya, the mayor of the West Bank town of Azzoun, said an Israeli military vehicle drove into town late on Thursday and when teens hurled rocks at the car, soldiers responded with live fire.

The Israeli military said in a statement that soldiers shot at suspects who had hurled explosives at forces while they were conducting a search in the area for people who launched fireworks at Israeli vehicles passing near Azzoun.

It said it was aware of reports of people being wounded but did not confirm any Palestinian fatalities.

A statement by the public hospital in Qalqilya, near Azzoun, said 10th grader Nidal Saleem died after being shot in the back. Two other people were treated for gunshot wounds, it added.

Violence in the West Bank has been spiraling with stepped-up Israeli military raids following a spate of Palestinian attacks. Fears of escalation ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover festival have prompted the US, Jordan and Egypt to appeal for calm.

Palestinians seek to establish a state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/03/Israeli-forces-kill-Palestinian-teen-in-surging-West-Bank-violence

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Israeli campaign raises funds for torched Palestinian town in occupied West Bank

02 March ,2023

An Israeli-led crowdfunding campaign has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Palestinian residents of the northern West Bank town of Huwara that was set ablaze by hard-line Jewish settlers, the organizer of the drive said Thursday.

Some 12,000 Israelis donated nearly 1.7 million shekels (465,000 dollars) since the campaign was launched this week. The fundraising effort was a rare instance of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians at a time when tensions have been surging between the sides over spiraling violence.

Scores of Israeli settlers went on a violent rampage in the northern West Bank town of Huwara late on Sunday, setting dozens of cars and homes on fire after two settlers were killed by a Palestinian gunman there earlier in the day. One Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire during the incident, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The rampage, the worst such violence in decades, prompted Israeli activist Yaya Fink, an observant Jew, to launch the fundraising initiative.

“I had very bad feelings for when I saw hundreds of religious Jews tried to burn Huwara, including innocent people,” he said, adding that it delivered a message that “the majority of the Jews are against extremism, against racism.” He said most of the money was raised within the campaign’s first 12 hours.

Fink said the money will be sent as compensation to Palestinians whose property was damaged in the attack. He said he received threats from opponents to the campaign, who called him a traitor for raising money for the Palestinians, even as some are carrying out attacks.

The rampage prompted international condemnation. But Israel’s government, which is made up of pro-settlement ultranationalists, expressed little outrage and only called on the perpetrators not to take the law into their own hands.

However, some lawmakers went even further, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who said Huwara should be “erased” — but by state authorities and not by private citizens. He later backtracked on those remarks.

Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, head of the military’s Central Command in charge of the West Bank, said this week the army was not prepared for the intensity of the Huwara violence, which he called “a pogrom done by outlaws.” He was using a term that usually refers to mob attacks against Jews in eastern Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/02/Israeli-campaign-raises-funds-for-torched-Palestinian-town-in-occupied-West-Bank

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Frenchman still in Iran prison despite acquittal: Lawyer

02 March ,2023

French citizen Benjamin Briere is still in an Iranian jail despite his recent acquittal by an appeals court, his lawyer said Thursday.

Incarcerated in May 2020, Briere was sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage.

He is one of several foreigners who campaigners say Iran has jailed in a strategy of hostage-taking to extract concessions from the West.

His France-based lawyer, Philippe Valent, said in a statement sent to AFP that an Iranian appeals court had cleared his client of all charges and ordered his release on February 15.

But Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the branch of the security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime, “are keeping him imprisoned despite this declaration of innocence,” he said.

“His release was prevented at the last moment,” he told AFP.

Held in the prison of Vakilabad in the eastern city of Mashhad, Briere is continuing a hunger strike which he started a month ago, and is “exhausted physically and mentally,” Valent said.

Valent, who had previously described the espionage charges against his client as “fiction,” said Thursday their “arbitrary nature” was “blatantly obvious”.

He said Briere’s family was demanding his immediate release.

“This situation is completely incomprehensible,” Blandine Briere, his sister, told AFP.

She said the family had decided not to report the appeals court’s verdict earlier in the hope that the situation might be resolved quietly.

Another detainee in Iran, 64-year-old Franco-Irish citizen Bernard Phelan held since October 1, in January suspended a hunger strike that included refusing water, at the request of his family, who feared for his life.

Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant, was arrested while travelling and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran.

Iran accuses him of anti-government propaganda, a charge he has denied.

Six French nationals are currently held in Iran.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/02/Frenchman-still-in-Iran-prison-despite-acquittal-Lawyer-

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Israel urges Brazil to undock Iranian warships

02 March ,2023

Israel on Thursday criticized Brazil’s decision to grant berth to two Iranian warships in the face of US pressure, and urged President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government to send them away.

The vessels docked in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. Reuters reported that Brazil had declined to admit them in January, in a goodwill gesture from Lula as he flew to Washington to meet US President Joe Biden.

Israel and Iran have been locked in a Cold War-style conflict for decades, which has included mutual accusations of maritime sabotage, even as Tehran faces intensified global pressure over its nuclear program and regional conduct.

Lior Haiat, spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, called the Brazilian berth for the warships “a dangerous and regretful development,” accusing the Iranian navy of cooperating with sanctioned entities in Tehran.

“It is still not too late to order the ships to leave the port,” Haiat said on Twitter.

President Lula’s press office did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The ships have also caused tensions with the United States. In a February 15 press conference, the US ambassador to Brazil had urged it not to allow the ships to dock.

On Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz called for sanctions against the South American country after the docking, dubbing it “a direct threat to the safety and security of Americans.”

“The Biden administration is obligated to impose relevant sanctions, re-evaluate Brazil’s cooperation with US antiterrorism efforts, and re-examine whether Brazil is maintaining effective antiterrorism measures at its ports,” Republican Cruz said in a statement.

A February 23 notice in a Brazilian gazette said the warships had been given permission to dock between February 26 and March 4.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/02/Israel-urges-Brazil-to-undock-Iranian-warships

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IAEA’s Grossi to travel to Iran, seeking breakthrough on cooperation

02 March ,2023

The UN nuclear watchdog said on Thursday its chief Rafael Grossi will travel to Iran for “high-level meetings” as diplomats say he wants to jolt Tehran into cooperating with an investigation into uranium traces found at undeclared sites.

Iran’s stonewalling of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s years-long investigation into uranium traces found at three undeclared sites prompted the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors to pass a resolution at its last quarterly meeting in November ordering Iran to cooperate urgently with the probe.

That cooperation has not materialized and Grossi is hoping that a meeting with Raisi will help smooth the way towards ending the deadlock, diplomats say. The board’s next quarterly meeting starts on Monday.

“Director General @rafaelmgrossi will travel to Tehran for high-level meetings,” the IAEA said on Twitter, confirming a visit first announced by Iran.

“The DG will hold a press conference upon his return to Vienna on Saturday, late afternoon.”

Diplomats have said for weeks that Grossi wants to meet hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi on this visit. The IAEA did not spell out whom he would meet.

Since the last board meeting the IAEA has chided Iran for failing to inform it beforehand of substantial changes made to the two cascades, or clusters, of advanced centrifuges enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity at its Fordow plant, which is dug into a mountain. Weapons grade is around 90 percent.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/02/IAEA-s-Grossi-to-travel-to-Iran-seeking-to-give-jolt-on-cooperation

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India

 

Should Dalit Christians, Muslims get quota benefits? RSS body to discuss issue

by Deeptiman Tiwary

March 1, 2023

Even as the K G Balakrishnan Committee examines the issue of quotas for Dalit Muslims and Christians, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) mass communication wing Vishwa Samvad Kendra is set to organise a two-day conference in Noida to discuss whether people from Scheduled Caste (SC) groups who have converted to Islam and Christianity should get reservation benefits or not.

The conference, beginning March 4, is being organised in collaboration with Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida. Sources said the event would see participation from jurists, educationists, research students, voluntary organizations and even some former diplomats.

The event coordinator, Pravesh Chowdhary, said on Tuesday, “After the constitution of the Sachar Committee, the Ranganath Misra Commission and its recommendation, a situation has arisen among the Scheduled Caste brothers in the country regarding whether the converted Christians and Muslims should get reservation or not. There is also an ongoing discussion on this in society. Some people believe that converted Christians and Muslims do not find any change in their social status even after converting from Hinduism … On the other hand, the majority society of the country believes that the Scheduled Castes whose religion is Hinduism, should get all the facilities, representation and reservations provided by the Constitution.”

Chowdhary, who is an assistant professor at the Centre for Comparative Politics & Political Theory, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said it was important to have a discussion while the Balakrishnan committee — K G Balakrishnan is a former Chief Justice of India — examines the issue. He also said whatever comes out of these discussions would be presented to the government.

“Many questions have been raised in society regarding the recommendations of the Ranganath Misra Commission, its validity, study, method of analysis, and time period. This discussion is being organised only to give an independent platform to the intellectual class of society. The speciality of this discussion is that professors, deans of schools, heads of departments, vice-chancellors, research scholars and representatives of non-governmental organizations are also participating in this discussion. Many former judges and senior advocates are also participating in this,” Chowdhary said.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) Vijay Shankar Tiwari who briefed the media along with Chowdhary on the issue, however, said the VHP’s earlier stated position was that SCs who converted to Christianity and Islam should not get reservation benefits. Chowdhary said he was in favour of granting reservation to those who do “ghar wapasi (convert back to Hinduism)”.

Chowdhary said that while preparing for the conference, the organisers had invited research work on the subject from across India and as many as 150 papers were received. He said 70 of these papers were shortlisted for the conference and there would be 32 speakers who will hold forth on 14 subtopics related to reservations.

The Sangh Parivar has been traditionally opposed to granting reservation to converted Dalits. The Sangh — through public movements and submissions of some BJP MPs in Parliament — has also supported demands to deny reservation to converted Adivasis as well.

Back in 1961, the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), the highest decision-making body of the RSS, said, “If any scheme of separate reservation … of different sects is sought to be envisaged for political purposes, it will prove highly detrimental to national unity…”

In 1990, in response to Christian demands for reservation on the lines of neo-Buddhists, the ABPS said that “the Constitution makers envisaged these concessions only to remove caste-based discrimination and inequality prevalent in Hindu society …”

Even the BJP has made similar noises in the past. In February 2010, the BJP national executive passed a resolution criticising the Misra Commission. It said, “(The) commission cannot dictate or thrust its opinion on the Christian Pope or Muslim maulvis … reservation would amount to a formal introduction of a caste system in Islam and Christianity, thus changing the basic tenets of these religions, which is outside the jurisdiction of both Parliament and the judiciary and also contrary to the provisions of the Koran and the Bible.”

The Central government last October notified a Commission under Balakrishnan “to examine the matter of according Scheduled Caste status to new persons, who claim to historically have belonged to the Scheduled Castes, but have converted to religions other than those mentioned in the Presidential Orders issued from time to time under Article 341 of the Constitution”.

The Commission will submit its report within two years.

As of now, reservation benefits are available only to Dalit Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs. Several petitions are pending before the Supreme Court seeking reservation benefits for Dalits who converted to Christianity or Islam.

Source: Indian Express

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://indianexpress.com/article/political-pulse/dalit-christians-muslims-quota-benefits-rss-8471992/

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Hindutva Goons, Right-Wing Worker Radha Semwal Dhoni And Her Colleagues, Demolish Mazar; Claim It Was Built On State Land

2nd March 2023

A Mazar (Muslim shrine) was demolished by right-wing worker Radha Semwal Dhoni and her colleagues claiming it was built on state land. The incident happened in Uttarakhand.

A video has emerged where two men are seen breaking the shrine with hammers.

Radha Semwal Dhoni posted the video on her officials Facebook page with the caption:

रजिस्ट्री दिखाओ मजार बचाओ

उत्तराखंड देवभूमि है यहां देवता ही वास करेंगे

प्रकृति कुछ बोलती नहीं भाइयों लेकिन

((( जोशीमठ केदारनाथ धारी देवी)))

याद है ना अगर ज्यादा गंदगी करोगे तो भुगतना भी पड़ेगा

Which translates to:

Show the registry and save the shrine

Uttarakhand is the land of gods, only gods will reside here

Nature does not speak anything brothers but

((( Joshimath Kedarnath Dhari Devi)))

Do you remember, if you do too much dirt, you will have to suffer.

This is not the first time Radha used violence employing the narrative “Hindu khaterein mein hai” (Hindus are in danger).

On February 1, another video went viral on Twitter where Radha can be seen hurling abuses and assaulting three Christians, including a woman accusing them of religious conversion on the pretext of taking tuition classes for children. The incident happened in the Jhajra district of Dehradun.

In the video, she asks Manish to give her his number. In the meantime, Radha moves to Neha, who is sitting quietly next to Manish, and asks her how much money was she paid for converting people.

As Neha remains calm and silent throughout Radha’s verbal abuse, she suddenly gets slapped by the latter. Shocked, Neha’s colleague Jimmy questions Radha only to get more abuses in return.

Source: Siasat Daily

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.siasat.com/uttarakhand-hindutva-goons-demolish-mazar-claim-it-was-built-on-state-land-2538388/

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₹ 5 Lakh Compensation For Families Of 2 Muslim Men Burnt Alive In Haryana

March 03, 2023

Jaipur: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday said those behind the killing of two men, whose charred bodies were found in Haryana's Bhiwani district after they were abducted from Bharatpur, deserve death penalty and that his government is committed to bring the culprits to book at the earliest.

Nasir (25) and Junaid alias Juna (35), both residents of Ghatmeeka village in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, were allegedly abducted by cow vigilantes on February 15 and their bodies were found inside a burnt car in Loharu in Bhiwani in Haryana on the morning of February 16.

The chief minister also announced a relief package of ₹ 5 lakh each for the families of the victims after meeting them at a temporary arrangement made near a helipad in Ghatmeeka village.

"The state government will provide ₹ 5 lakh compensation each to the wives and children of both the victims. An amount of ₹ 1 lakh each will be provided as cash whereas a fixed deposit of ₹ 4 lakh each will be done so that the dependent families do not face any problem in the education and marriage of the kids," he told reporters.

Nasir is survived by his wife, while Junaid is survived by his wife, six children and a mentally challenged brother.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Education Zahida Khan had earlier announced ₹ 5 lakh each assistance for the families of the victims besides ₹ 50,000 each extended by the Panchayat Samiti Pahari.

"Both families will also be provided ₹ 1.25 lakh each as interim assistance besides connecting them with various public welfare schemes," a statement by the government said.

Talking about the probe into the incident, Mr Gehlot said, "We are working in a way that the accused involved in the case are arrested and sentenced to death. Whether it is the Udaipur incident or this one, those who commit such crime deserve nothing less than death penalty." He was referring to the murder of a tailor in Udaipur last year over a controversial social media post. Kanhaiya Lal, 48, was killed by cleaver-wielding men -- Riaz Akhtari and Ghouse Mohammad -- at his shop on June 28 last.

The chief minister also said that he will talk to his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar to take the incident with utmost seriousness. For this, DGPs of both states are in talks, he said.

"I myself spoke to the chief minister of Haryana who assured me help in getting the people involved in the incident arrested. Even after so many days, these people have not been caught.

"The way the victims were abducted and beaten, and later taken to a police station in Haryana, but they (police) denied taking them into custody. No one knows what happened next with the victims... how they were beaten and set on fire. Only the skeletons remained, what can be worse for the family, villagers, society and the citizens of the state," he said.

A total of nine people, including Bajrang Dal member Monu Manesar who runs a cow protection group, and Srikant Pandit, whose mother lodged a complaint against the Rajasthan Police, have been named in the case so far.

The accused have been booked under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 365 (kidnapping), 367 (grievously hurt after kidnapping) and 368 (wrongfully keeping in confinement) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Two more IPC sections -- 302 (murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) -- were later added, police said.

Source: ND TV

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/rs-5-lakh-compensation-for-families-of-2-muslim-men-burnt-alive-in-haryana-3828700

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Has India forgotten Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the country’s first education minister and a champion of Hindu-Muslim unity?

March 02, 2023

I am an orphan in my own motherland...

— Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

These words of Maulana Azad — the first education minister of independent India — spoken from Delhi’s Jama Masjid on October 23, 1947 came to mind last week when the plenary session of the Indian National Congress began in Raipur against the backdrop of placards and posters of some of the tallest leaders of the party.

Hoardings and front-page advertisements in many dailies had the photographs of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, B.R. Ambedkar, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Sarojini Naidu besides those of post-Independence leaders from the Nehru-Gandhi family and former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. Azad, former Congress party president and the man who stood like a rock against Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was missing from the posters.

Social media took note, and was soon abuzz with talk about the activist and scholar who gave the country its first IIT, and helped set up the Sangeet Natak Akademi, Lalit Kala Akademi, Sahitya Akademi and the University Grants Commission, among others. Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh tried to cover up. He tweeted: “Today, an ad released by INC did not carry a photograph of Maulana Azad. It was an inexcusable slip-up. Responsibility for it is being fixed and action will be taken”.

Once lampooned by the Muslim League, now dumped by the Congress and unwanted by the BJP, Azad is a forgotten man today. In December last year, the BJP-led Union government had scrapped the Maulana Azad National Fellowship for needy students citing “overlaps with various other fellowship schemes”.

Launched in 2009, the scheme provided financial assistance for five years to students from six notified minority communities — Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Muslim, Parsi and Sikh — to pursue M.Phil and Ph.D. The affected students protested but that did not change anything. Azad’s anniversary on February 22 too went by almost unnoticed.

According to historian S. Irfan Habib, what’s happened with Azad is indicative of the times. “It fits in well with the current dispensation’s policy of erasing the history of any Muslim influence. They are changing the names of cities and roads. The denial of Maulana is a part of that,” he says.

Habib, whose biography of Azad titled  Maulana Azad: A Life released just last month, was among the first to react to the Congress slip-up in Raipur. “I removed my tweet after Jairam Ramesh issued a public apology. I believe posters for such events are made with planning. If it was planned, why so,” he asks. “The reason I did this biography was to bring him back in national discourse as there has been no book on him for several years.”

Azad’s plea to Indian Muslims

At a time when politicians have no qualms in telling Muslims to go to Pakistan “if they want to eat beef” or “if they cannot sing ‘Vande Mataram’”, it is perhaps pertinent to recall Azad’s anguished words to his countrymen after Partition, which he was dead against. He said, “Where are you going and why? Raise your eyes. The minarets of Jama Masjid want to ask you a question. Where have you lost the glorious pages from your chronicles? Was it only yesterday that on the banks of the Jamuna, your caravans performed  wazu? Today, you are afraid of living here. Remember, Delhi has been nurtured with your blood. Brothers, create a basic change in yourselves. Today, your fear is misplaced as your jubilation was yesterday... I do not ask you to seek certificates from the new echelons of power... Come, today let us pledge that this country is ours, we belong to it and any fundamental decisions about its destiny will remain incomplete without our consent.”

Source: The Hindu

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https://www.thehindu.com/society/has-india-forgotten-maulana-abul-kalam-azad-the-countrys-first-education-minister-and-a-champion-of-hindu-muslim-unity/article66563281.ece

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Lucknow District Officials Meet Muslim Clerics, Discuss Peaceful Holi & Shab-e-Barat Celebrations

Mar 02, 2023

Lucknow District authorities have begun preparing for the two upcoming festivals -- Holi and Shab-e-Barat -- co-incidentally falling on the same day. This year, both Holika Dahan (popular as Chhoti Holi) and Shab-e-Barat will fall on March 7. To ensure peaceful celebrations and prevent any toward incident, senior authorities of the police department, district administration, and other concerned departments held a meeting with Muslim clerics at the Islamic Centre of India in Aishbagh on Thursday.

“Holi and Shab-e-Barat are both important festivals. While we pay respects to our ancestors on Shab-e-Barat, Holi is a festival of joy for our Hindu brothers and sisters. I am confident that these festivals will be observed peacefully, displaying our society’s secular fabric. Both the communities respect each other’s religious sentiments,” said Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali Imam, the chairman of the Islamic Centre of India. He added, “Muslims should visit the grave of their loved ones only after 5 pm.”

Source: Hindustan Times

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https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/others/lko-dist-officials-meet-muslim-clerics-discuss-peaceful-holi-shab-e-barat-celebrations-101677773460668.html

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South Asia

 

Afghan diplomats return to Turkey and Iran as Taliban pushes for relations thaw

By Ali M Latifi

2 March 2023

Earlier this week, Afghanistan’s Taliban government officially sent its representatives to the country's embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Istanbul, despite the fact that neither Iran nor Turkey formally recognise the Islamic Emirate as the official rulers of the country.

These moves are just the latest example of diplomatic breakthroughs that have been achieved by the Taliban in the Middle East and Central Asia as they attempt to end their international isolation.

On Sunday, Fazel Mohammad Haqqani was chosen as the charge d’affaires in Tehran. The following day, Gulmat Khan Zadran was announced as the new consul general in Istanbul by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Though neither Turkey nor Iran acknowledges the Islamic Emirate as a formal government, both have had relatively cosy relationships with the Taliban.

Each has maintained its diplomatic presence in the country since the Islamic Emirate returned to power in August 2021, despite both being allies of the former Western-backed government.

Additionally, both nations have continued to deport thousands of refugees back to Afghanistan at a time when the government there has been accused of rolling back womens' rights and abusing journalists, activists, and former members of the security forces.

Tehran has also faced years of allegations that it aided and abetted the Taliban when they were an armed opposition group fighting the former Islamic Republic government and the western forces that backed it.

Since at least 2016, residents and officials in the provinces of Herat, Farah, Ghazni, Helmand, and Kandahar alleged that Tehran was supporting the Taliban.

This week's diplomatic handovers make Iran and Turkey the latest in a list of recent appointments in the Middle East and the Asia by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Since the autumn of 2021, the Islamic Emirate has appointed diplomats to various positions in embassies and consulates in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia.

Hassan Sahak, a political analyst based in Kabul, says these latest appointments are actually the culmination of efforts that began long before the Islamic Emirate formally returned to power.

“For years, there had been delegations going to neighbouring countries, and countries in Asia, that Afghanistan has had relations and interactions with,” Sahak says of visits the Taliban have made to Russia, China, Iran, and Uzbekistan over at least a decade.

During those visits, Sahak says the group made promises about how a potential Islamic Emirate would operate should they return to power - with a particular emphasis on regional security.

Sahak says that the recent acceptance of Taliban diplomats is a sign that many of these nations now believe the Islamic Emirate seems to be living up to its promises about how it would conduct its government and bring security to Afghanistan.

Islamic State threat

Particularly important to all of these nations is the ability of the Islamic Emirate to thwart the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

For nations like Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan - all of whom border Afghanistan - containing and stamping out any force claiming allegiance to IS is vitally important.

Several of Afghanistan’s neighbours have personal reasons to fear the expansion of IS influence in the region.

In Iran, in 2017 at least 12 people were killed in a pair of IS-claimed attacks on the parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In 2015, the declaration of allegiance to IS by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an armed group with a presence in both Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, only increased the fear of IS influence in the region.

Islamabad has long been dogged by reports that many of the fighters claiming allegiance to IS in Afghanistan have come from a part of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province known as Orakzai Agency.

Sahak says the Islamic Emirate’s commitment to tackling its long-time rival IS is likely to be one of the reasons Kabul’s regional neighbours have allowed the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan’s diplomatic outposts.

“They see that the Islamic Emirate really is taking decisive action against IS,” Sahak says of an issue that is considered a key security issue throughout the region.

Realising this, IS has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks targeting Russian, Pakistani, and Chinese diplomats and civilians in the Afghan capital between September and December 2022.

At the same time, the Taliban government has stepped up attacks on alleged IS hideouts in the provinces of Kabul, Kunduz, and Kandahar.

Of course, stamping out the presence of IS in Afghanistan is not only a matter of foreign policy.

The group has claimed responsibility for some of the most heinous terrorist attacks in the country, both in the final years of the western-backed Islamic Republic and in the period since the Islamic Emirate re-took control.

But Andreas Krieg, a Professor at King's College London who specialises in the Middle East, takes a much less rosy view of the reasoning behind the Islamic Emirate’s diplomatic moves.

To him, the recent decisions by Turkey and Iran are more an acknowledgment of the “status quo” than a reward for good behaviour by the Islamic Emirate.

Instead, he says dealing with the Islamic Emirate is “absolutely important” for humanitarian aid delivery.

“Currently, the Afghan people are punished for the return of the Taliban to which the United States agreed," Krieg says, referring to the six million people who are said to be one step away from famine, due in part to the aid cutbacks, sanctions, banking restrictions, and capital flight that followed the Taliban’s return to power.

Contradictory gestures?

All this leaves the Islamic Emirate and the world at an odd juncture, whereby nearly all of the nations who have permitted diplomats from the Islamic Emirate to come to their countries also continue to criticise the Afghan government’s rollbacks of the rights of women to education, work, and leisure.

Most recently, Riyadh called on the Taliban government to allow women to "fully enjoy their rights without discrimination” at a UN address.

However, Krieg says the steps taken in Asia and the Middle East should not be seen as a possible sign of things to come from the West, which has been adamant that they cannot acknowledge the Islamic Emirate until the accusations of rights abuses by the caretaker government are addressed.

Moreover, Krieg says the West has already outsourced most matters concerning Afghanistan to “the Gulf and other intermediaries,” like Qatar, which has hosted Taliban delegations in Doha since 2011 when then-US President Barack Obama first called for peace talks with the group.

With the West pre-occupied with Ukraine and the regional intermediaries having largely accepted the status quo, Krieg says the increasing Taliban footprint in Afghanistan’s international missions is part of the “inevitable normalisation" of the group.

And the Islamic Emirate is looking to take advantage of that momentum.

Source: Middle East Eye

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/afghanistan-taliban-turkey-iran-diplomats-return

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Rohingya refugees decry ‘devastating’ cuts to food aid

March 3, 2023

KUTUPALONG: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh said on Thursday they are struggling to survive after the United Nations slashed their food aid due to a massive funding gap.

After a $125 million donation shortfall, monthly food vouchers were cut from $12 to $10 per person starting in March, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced, warning further cuts were “imminent” without an immediate cash injection.

The drop has already caused hardship among the roughly one million Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh’s overcrowded camps, where they are reliant on aid and malnutrition is already rampant.

“We don’t have any income and the rations are reduced,” said refugee Rahela Begum, 40, whose son is ill and malnourished.

“He does not eat rice or other foods but only nutritious nut cream. They have stopped giving the nut cream and I don’t know if he will survive.”

This is the first time assistance has been scaled back since an estimated 750,000 Rohingya fled over the border during a 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military that is now subject to a UN genocide investigation.

Source: Dawn

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https://www.dawn.com/news/1740121/rohingya-refugees-decry-devastating-cuts-to-food-aid

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Six TTP Members Killed in Afghanistan’s Khost IED Blast

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 2, 2023

At least six members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) including a prominent commander were killed and 15 others injured in a blast that took place in Afghanistan’s Khost province on Thursday.

Sources reported that six TTP militants were killed and 15 others injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast in Khost province. The identities of the slain commanders were revealed to be Abdul Manan, Alam Khan Mudakhel, Kajir, and three others unidentified.

The attack comes days after a senior Pakistani delegation traveled to Kabul, and met with Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradar, the Action Deputy Prime Minister of the Taliban, and discussed key security concerns.

Later reports emerged that Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif had warned Afghan authorities if the Taliban regime does not take necessary measures against the TTP hideouts, Pakistan does not have an option but to target the militant groups on Afghan soil.

During the meeting, Mullah Bradar reiterated the Islamic Emirate security forces will target TTP, ISIS, and other militant groups wherever they hide in Afghanistan. Also, he has assured Pakistani officials of enhancing security cooperation between the two countries in the future.

Pakistan officials were confident that the outcome of the visit would be visible in upcoming weeks as Pakistan expects certain actions by the Afghan Taliban against terrorist outfits operating out of Afghan soil.

Source: Khaama Press

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https://www.khaama.com/six-ttp-terrorists-killed-in-afghanistans-khost-ied-blast/

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UNAMA Chief Meets IEA Minister, Discusses Education in Afghanistan

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 2, 2023

Taliban’s Education Minister, Habibullah Agha met with Roza Otunbayeva Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and discussed the recent development in the education sector in Afghanistan on Thursday.

Minister Habibullah Agha has said to UNAMA Chief Roza Otunbayeva that the Taliban group has had “considerable achievements” in the areas of education, security, and economy, and the world should know their responsibility towards war-torn Afghanistan. 

In the announcement of the Taliban’s ministry of education, it has been quoted the representative of the United Nations that this organization will unconditionally continue to help the education sector in Afghanistan.

This comes as schools and universities remain closed for female students across the country with no sign of their resumption in the near future.

The international community and aid organizations have repeatedly called on the Taliban authorities to reopen schools and universities, but Afghanistan’s de facto regime has not yet provided provide a positive response to the demand of the people of Afghanistan and the international community at large.

On Wednesday, the ministry of higher education announced that the new academic year for male students at public universities and educational institutions in colder regions will officially start on March 6 of the current year. However, the statement did not point out the resumption of universities for female students, which has become a very controversial topic among the Taliban senior members as well.

Source: Khaama Press

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https://www.khaama.com/unama-chief-meets-iea-minister-discusses-education-in-afghanistan/

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Southeast Asia

 

Thailand launches e-guidebook for foodies and Muslim tourists

BANGKOK - The Thai government has launched a free e-guidebook to promote gastronomy tourism for Muslim and other foreign tourists, an official said on Thursday.

Deputy government spokesman Rachada Dhnadirek said the Thai and English versions of the e-guidebook, Muslim-Friendly and Gastronomy Tourism Routes, is available for free download.

Ms Rachada said the e-guidebook from the tourism department of the Tourism and Sports Ministry aims to support self-drive tourism connecting 14 southern provinces and extending to Malaysia, Singapore, and Batam Island in Indonesia.

The 154-page e-guidebook provides two routes.

Under the Muslim-friendly route, tourists can visit places of interest to Muslim tourists. They may also follow the route to experience Muslim culture, food and activities, said Ms Rachada.

Meanwhile, the gastronomy route provides information on general tourist attractions and suggests local and famous restaurants in each location.

The e-guidebook says the information is based on data as at Aug 9, 2022. It provides links to websites and other sources for more updated information as well.

The e-guidebook also provides a sample of the two routes that are covered in 20 days. Both sample routes start and end in Chumphon province, in the southern part of Thailand.

The Muslim-friendly route includes places and provinces such as Phuket, Krabi, Batam Island, Penang and Singapore. As for tourists who choose the gastronomy route, they will drive past the same provinces and three countries but through different locations.

The e-guidebook has separate sections on the 14 southern provinces including Phuket, Krabi and Narathiwat.

It also provides information on how to apply for a tourist visa to enter Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia by crossing the borders.

Source: Straits Times

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/thailand-launches-e-guidebook-for-foodies-and-muslim-tourists

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Malaysia seeks deeper ties with Saudi Arabia after Hajj minister’s visit

NOR ARLENE TAN

March 02, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is looking forward to closer ties with Saudi Arabia, officials and experts have said after the Kingdom’s Hajj and Umrah minister’s visit to Kuala Lumpur.

Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah concluded on Wednesday his three-day visit to the Southeast Asian nation, where he met its new Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, members of his Cabinet and Hajj officials.

After the visit, the Malaysian PM, who took office in November and is one of the most prominent Muslim leaders in Southeast Asia, said in a series of tweets that “the close relationship between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia established over the years is expected to become closer.”

Officials who participated in the meetings with Al-Rabiah told Arab News that the visit has opened doors for cooperation in many areas.

“With a large delegation from Saudi Arabia and multiple engagements conducted throughout the visit with Malaysian ministers, this is a positive signal for more initiatives and cooperation between both countries,” said Amrin Awaluddin, the chief of Malaysia’s Hajj pilgrims fund board known as Tabung Hajji.

He added that while it was especially beneficial to Malaysian Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, the minister’s trip had brought “Malaysia-Saudi relations to another level, forging deeper ties between the two countries.”

Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, and Muslims make up two-thirds of its 34 million population. This year, about 31,600 of them will arrive in the Kingdom to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.

To facilitate the journey, Al-Rabiah launched the Kingdom’s Nusuk platform, which allows pilgrims to plan and book visits to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

The Saudi Hajj ministry also held a session at the Tabung Hajji headquarters to train the leaders of pilgrim groups to improve the quality of pilgrimage services, facilitate their trips and enrich their religious and cultural experiences in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

Pilgrimage organizers also discussed with the Saudi minister and his delegation possibilities to draw more Malaysian visitors to the Kingdom, especially as its tourism portfolio has been expanding beyond religious destinations and now also covers heritage sites.

“The event in Kuala Lumpur was about the launch of Nusuk, but at our trade meeting with the minister, we discussed issues about airlines, hotels, etc.,” said Razali Mohd. Sham, president of the Malaysian Umrah and Hajj Travel Association.

“Saudi is very friendly, and the system has improved tremendously, and we can go to other places, not just Makkah or Madinah.”

Uzaidi Udanis, president of the Malaysia Tourism Council, who also participated in meetings with Al-Rabiah, told Arab News that the relationship between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia is getting stronger and expanding beyond Hajj and Umrah.

“Saudi is transforming with the latest technology, and there are new things coming out,” he said.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2261211/world

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Umno Islamic council’s ‘Ennahda-like’ trimmings

03 Mar 2023

The newly formed Umno Islamic council had its first meeting on Monday and came out with a list of its priorities.

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Although it did not allude to any specific inspiration, the goals could be attributed to Ennahda, the political vehicle of Tunisia’s world famous Islamic intellectual Rached Ghannouchi.

In May 2016, Ghannouchi, a friend of Anwar Ibrahim, enunciated a new direction for Ennahda.

He pronounced this direction as “We are leaving political Islam. We are Muslim democrats now.”

With the new direction it was clear the party founded by Ghannouchi in 1981, with the Muslim Brotherhood as its inspiration, was equipping itself for participation in Tunisia’s democratising process, begun in January 2011 with the unrest that overthrew the long-standing dictator Zine El Abidin Ben Ali.

Ghannouchi’s Ennahda was in the thick of the agitation for political liberalisation of the dictatorships that were common in the Arab world and that were threatened by the Arab Spring.

But the Islamist parties could not win power on their own; they had to consort with secular parties and this required compromise.

From this collaboration there emerged the awareness of a need for trimmings to Ennahda’s Islamist sails.

Accordingly, the party’s conclave in 2016 determined that henceforth it would be content to concentrate on being good “Muslim democrats”.

This direction that was decided at the Ennahda conclave did not receive the publicity it deserved in the Arab world, given that no less a renowned Islamist intellectual than Ghannouchi was the inspiration behind it.

Thus, it comes as an interesting surprise that the Umno Islamic Council, in determining its course after the first meeting on Monday, has come up with four guidelines that are an echo of what Ennahda decided in 2016 as its future thrust.

The four are an advisory role in realising Umno’s Islamic basis and purpose as provided in the party constitution; to educate and discipline party members in line with the party’s principles and remain steadfast in being pious Muslims and good citizens; to advise the government to always act according to the Federal Constitution, in which Islam is stated as the religion of the federation; and to guide Muslims to always stay on the true path of Islam and be responsible Malaysians.

Although the council’s chief Dusuki Ahmad did not say anything about who was the inspiration behind the guidelines, it is quite clear that there is an ‘Ennahdaan’ overlay to them.

In a word, the council was saying its role was to see that Umno leaders and members were good Muslims and good democrats.

Implicit is the acknowledgment that there are boundaries to the role it intends to play.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2023/03/03/umno-islamic-councils-ennahda-like-trimmings/

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PM Anwar wants sufficient allocations to be channelled to flood victims

02 Mar 2023

MANILA, March 2 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wants sufficient allocations to be channelled to the victims of the floods in Johor, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Sabah and Melaka, which have so far affected 29,000 people.

The prime minister said he has discussed the matter with his deputy Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the National Disaster Management Committee chairman, on the latest situation and types of assistance that can be provided before flying home from the Philippines today.

“On the floods in Johor and Pahang, I have been updated on the current situation. I have discussed the matter with the deputy prime minister (Ahmad Zahid) so that there are sufficient allocations for the flood victims,” he told Malaysian media today at the end of his two-day visit to the Philippines.

Earlier, the prime minister met some 100 Malaysians residing in the country at Rumah Malaysia here.

Anwar also wants construction work on the Bailey bridge at the location where a road collapsed in Felda Selancar in Rompin yesterday to be expedited.

On his two-day visit, the prime minister said it reflects the importance of bilateral relations between neighbouring countries.

Anwar said Malaysia and the Philippines should enhance bilateral cooperation involving various fields, including trade and investment, as well as education and training, which he added was once very active.

In a meeting with several local private parties today, Anwar said some of the Philippines’ investors have shown interest in investing in Malaysia involving the food security, financial and industrial sectors.

Anwar said the relevant ministries and agencies have been told to speed up meetings with the potential investors.

On efforts to attain peace in Mindanao, the prime minister said Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr greatly appreciated the efforts taken by Malaysia in ensuring peace in the troubled region.

“Efforts to bring peace to Mindanao need to be finetuned and expedited,” he said, but at the same time admitted that the issues in the southern Philippines that have plagued the region for a long time are not easily resolved.

However, Malaysia has a responsibility as a neighbouring and Islamic country to ensure meaningful success and lasting peace in the region, the prime minister said.

Anwar said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir has been asked to coordinate efforts to invite Mindanao leaders, including Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Murad Ebrahim, to Malaysia.

He said their presence in Malaysia is for discussions with related departments and agencies about administrative management affairs in the southern region of the Philippines and also as part of efforts toward the success of the peace process there, he said.

Anwar also wants to hold discussions with investors from the plantation and industrial sectors keen on investing in the southern Philippines to create job opportunities for the local population and develop the region together.

Source: Malay Mail

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/03/02/pm-anwar-wants-sufficient-allocations-to-be-channelled-to-flood-victims/57631

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In Johor, mosques in flood areas to open as temporary flood relief centres

By Ben Tan

03 Mar 2023

JOHOR BARU, March 3 — Main mosques in flood-affected areas in Johor are now open as temporary flood relief centres, following the sudden surge in flood victims from the state.

Johor Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid said in order to accommodate the new role, guidelines will be prepared for the mosques to continue their main function as a place of Muslim worship.

"This is a contingency plan that we have taken to accommodate the high increase in the population affected by the floods.

"The mosque is also allowed to assist in preparing food for distribution and delivery to nearby temporary flood relief centres,” Mohd Fared said in a statement posted.

On the fifth day of the floods in Johor, the number of flood victims continued to increase today.

Source: Malay Mail

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2023/03/03/in-johor-mosques-in-flood-areas-to-open-as-temporary-flood-relief-centres/57784

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Arab World

 

Arab nations condemn Israeli minister’s “racist” Palestine comments

March 03, 2023

ABU DHABI: Arab nations have condemned what they say were “racist comments” by Israeli Minister of Finance, Betzalel Smotrich calling for the destruction of the Palestinian village of Huwara.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) said the UAE rejected all practices that contradicted moral and human values and principles, state news agncy WAM reported.

On Wednesday Smotrich responded to journalists saying the village had to be demolished following the violence. He later claimed the comments were taken out of context, explaining he believed the village had become “hostile” and was turning into a terrorist haven.

The UAE ministry underscored the need to confront hate speech and violence and said it was important to strengthen “the values of tolerance and human coexistence” in an effort to reduce instability in the region.

Meanwhile Jordan’s Foreign Ministry condemned the  Smotrich’s “inflammatory” comments.

The ministry spokesperson, Ambassador Sinan Majali, said the calls for violence “portend serious consequences and represent a violation of international humanitarian law,” state news agency Petra reported.

Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned the minister’s comments in the “strongest terms”, in a statement issued on Friday.

The statement said the Israeli comments represented a “dangerous and unacceptable incitement to violence”, adding that they contradicted “all laws, customs and moral values, and lacks the responsibility that any official holding an official position should have”.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2261521/middle-east

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Saudi Film Commission participates in Berlin International Film Festival

March 02, 2023

BERLIN: The Saudi Film Commission has participated in a variety of cinematic events during the Berlin International Film Festival to introduce the Saudi film industry and highlight its financial incentives, ideal locations for production, and the initiatives and programs offered by the commission to develop this industry locally.

The commission’s delegation included specialists and Saudi filmmakers, in addition to representatives of non-profit associations. The delegation attended several specialized workshops and met with a group of international experts and filmmakers.

The commission hosted nearly 150 producers, directors, media professionals, and filmmakers from all over the world at a luncheon in cooperation with Film AlUla and NEOM, highlighting the commission’s programs and initiatives and promoting filming sites in the Kingdom.

Some of the commission’s initiatives include the incentive program that offers cashback of up to 40 percent on the costs of films produced in the Kingdom, talent development and support programs such as the Filmmakers Program, opportunities for higher education and academic cinematic majors in cooperation with Saudi universities, in addition to investment opportunities in infrastructure to develop the sector and provide commercial services and opportunities for logistical companies.

The commission’s strategic targets fall in line with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030 to develop and diversify the economic base and increase employment rates.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2261346/saudi-arabia

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UN chief urges nations to repatriate citizens from Syria camp

02 March ,2023

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for the swift repatriation of foreigners held in Syria’s infamous al-Hol camp which houses relatives of extremists.

The sprawling and overcrowded Kurdish-run al-Hol camp in northern Syria is home to more than 50,000 people, including family members of suspected ISIS militants as well as displaced Syrians and Iraqi refugees.

Nearly half of the camp’s population is under the age of 12 and residents are “deprived of their rights, vulnerable, and marginalized”, Guterres said in a statement during a visit to Iraq.

“They are trapped in a desperate situation with no end in sight,” he said at the Jadaa camp, which Iraqi authorities describe as a “rehabilitation” centre for those returning from Syria.

“I have no doubt to say that the worst camp that exists in today’s world is al-Hol, with the worst possible conditions for people and with enormous suffering for the people that have been stranded there for years,” Guterres said.

He urged UN member states who have nationals in al-Hol to “significantly step up their efforts to facilitate the safe and dignified repatriation of their nationals.”

He praised war-ravaged Iraq, which has repatriated hundreds of families from al-Hol since May 2021.

“All countries with their citizens in al-Hol must do the same, and must do the same in a dignified repatriation in line with applicable international law, and in the case of children, guided by the principles of the best interests of children,” he said.

Guterres warned that letting this “untenable situation fester” will only fuel “more resentment and despair” and threaten security and stability.

Kurdish authorities in Syria have repeatedly called on countries to repatriate their citizens, but foreign governments have allowed only a trickle to return home, fearing security threats and a domestic political backlash.

ISIS seized vast areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and ruled with brutality until local forces backed by the US-led coalition defeated them, first in Iraq in late 2017 and then in Syria in March 2019.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/02/UN-chief-urges-nations-to-repatriate-citizens-from-Syria-camp-

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UAE astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi docks at the International Space Station

03 March ,2023

Emirati astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi landed at the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday a day after blasting off in a spacecraft from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule, named Endeavour, docked shortly after 10.40 a.m. UAE time following a 24-hour journey to ISS where al-Neyadi and his three crew members will spend the next six months in what will be the Arab world’s longest space mission. It will see experiments ranging from human cell growth in space to controlling combustible materials in microgravity.

After a short wait 20 meters from ISS to fix a troubleshooting issue, the Dragon capsule docked autonomously to the space-facing port of the station.

The docking sequence finished at about 10.54 a.m. with the four-crew officially welcomed to ISS.

The coupling was confirmed as the ISS and capsule flew in tandem at 17,500 miles per hour (28,164 kph) about 250 miles

(420km) above Earth across the coast of East Africa, according to a live NASA webcast of the rendezvous.

SpaceX crew are now conducting final checks before the hatch is opened and the astronauts board the station and join the Expedition 68, consisting of seven other astronauts. For a short time, the 11 crew members will live and work in space together until four of the previous crew return to Earth in a few days.

The international crew are NASA’s sixth commercial crew rotation mission with SpaceX aboard the orbital laboratory.

“Congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX teams for another history-making mission to the International Space Station,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Crew-6 will be busy aboard the International Space Station, conducting over 200 experiments that will help us to prepare for missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, as well as improve life here on Earth. We look forward to seeing all that they accomplish.”

Conducting new scientific research, Crew-6 will help prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth. Experiments will include studies of how particular materials burn in microgravity, tissue chip research on heart, brain, and cartilage functions, and an investigation that will collect microbial samples from the outside of the space station. These are just some of the hundreds of science experiments and technology demonstrations that will take place during their mission.

Nearly 80 spectators from the United Arab Emirates watched from the launch site as astronaut al-Neyadi — only the second Emirati to fly to space — blasted off on his mission on the Falcon 9 rocket carrying their detachable spacecraft

NASA confirmed shortly after 9:50 a.m. Thursday that the Dragon carrying the astronauts and the Falcon 9 separated as planned. Shortly after, al-Neyadi, 41, sent a message from space on the live feed, saying: “Thanks to my parents, my family, thanks to our leadership...thank you for everyone who trained us and got us ready for this mission.”

“The launch was incredible. And, lastly, thanks to Nasa and SpaceX. Go Dragon and go SpaceX.”

The Crew-6 launch is carrying two NASA astronauts, Mission Commander Stephen Bowen and Pilot Warren Hoburg, along with the UAE’s al-Neyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, who will serve as mission specialists for a space station science expedition.

Dr al-Neyadi is only the second ever Emirati to travel into space, following Hazza al-Mansouri’s eight-day stay on the ISS in 2019. He is also the first Emirati to launch from US soil as part of a long-duration space station team.

After the successful launch, UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said: “I join the nation in congratulating Sultan al-Neyadi as he begins his pioneering mission aboard the International Space Station.”

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2023/03/03/UAE-astronaut-Sultan-al-Neyadi-docks-at-the-International-Space-Station

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Uneasy calm in Lebanon refugee camp following armed clashes

NAJIA HOUSSARI

March 02, 2023

BEIRUT: An uneasy calm returned to Ain Al-Hilweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, on Thursday after a night of violent clashes between gunmen from the Fatah movement and rivals from the extremist Asbat Al-Ansar group.

Machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades were used in a series of exchanges that left one Fatah member dead and seven other men wounded.

The sound of gunfire could be heard in the nearby coastal city of Sidon, adjacent to the camp.

Ghassan Ayoub, a Palestinian security official in Ain Al-Hilweh, told Arab News: “What began as an isolated fight suddenly developed into clashes that the Palestinian forces inside the camp are working to contain.”

He said the victim has yet to be buried because of simmering tensions in the camp.

Security officials say the clashes erupted on Wednesday night after a dispute between Fatah members in one of the neighborhoods resulted in injuries.

While transporting the injured to a hospital inside the camp, armed Fatah members passed in front of Al-Shuhada Mosque at the entrance to Al-Safsaf, a neighborhood controlled by the Asbat Al-Ansar group.

A guard at the mosque fired on the passers-by, wounding a Fatah member. The group returned fire and clashes escalated throughout the night.

The wounded man, Mahmoud Zubaidat, died early on Thursday. His brother fired shots in the air when his death was announced, prompting Palestinian forces to take action to restore calm.

UNRWA schools inside the camp closed on Thursday to protect students. The clashes also caused damage to cars and property.

Nidaa Al-Insan Hospital inside the camp said in a statement that it had treated seven wounded people with serious to moderate injuries, including one who needed surgery.

Independent MP Abdul Rahman Al-Bizri said the armed clashes “threaten the safety and security of residents and citizens, and harm the Palestinian cause.”

He said that “serious work should be done to prevent these clashes from happening again, as they harm civil peace and stability in the region, especially since Lebanon needs peace and calm to overcome the critical and exceptional circumstances it is going through now.”

Al-Birzi called on the rival groups to “assume their responsibilities.”

Meetings are being held to contain the situation, and “an investigation committee will be formed to establish responsibilities and undertake the measures necessary to defuse the situation,” he added.

Ayoub denied any link between the violence and a report by the US website “The Media Line” claiming that mercenaries from Palestinian camps in Lebanon were being recruited to join Russian forces in Ukraine.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry denied the allegations, describing them as “baseless news.”

The ministry added: “The Palestinian people have their own cause and battles to fight, and are not party to any other war or conflict elsewhere in the world.”

A Lebanese source told the US website that “in cooperation with Hezbollah, employees at the Palestinian Embassy in Lebanon are communicating with activists in the Fatah political movement so they can be recruited in exchange for hundreds of dollars.”

The source added that “Palestinians residing in Lebanon have signed up to join the conflict in Ukraine on behalf of Russia, having been offered a sum of $350 by Russian entities.”

The US website claimed that “the majority of the Palestinians being deployed to the front lines in Ukraine hail from Ain Al-Helweh,” adding that “the recruits are members of the Fatah political movement, as well as other organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”

A 2017 report by the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said that more than 174,000 Palestinians were living in the camps.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2261271/middle-east

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AlUla visitor center’s highly trained local employees plan authentic experiences for guests

JASMINE BAGER

March 02, 2023

RIYADH: The UNESCO Heritage Sites in AlUla have become more accessible after the Royal Commission for AlUla launched a new and free concierge service.

Local visitor center professionals with in-depth knowledge of tourist sites, hidden spots, and trending events will customize itineraries for travelers venturing into the ancient city.

Center operations manager, Islam Fayez, told Arab News: “The visitor center is the first impression that guests get — especially the one at the airport in AlUla.

“It’s a completely free service that is available in three business centers at this time — AlUla airport, the Old Town, and Winter Park. “Staff at the center will create a full itinerary for the guests. They have a lot of suggestions, they are updated with all the new places, and they have the contact number for all the reservations for the restaurants. The guests will only pay for the experience they are booking.

“The center staff will help solve a lot of problems because many people come to AlUla and they’re like, ‘oh, I don’t know what to do next,’ or they have one thing set up and then the rest of the time they don’t know where to go,” he said.

Staff aim to customize trips to fit the preferences, budgets, and stay periods of tourists, whether they be solo travelers, couples, friends, or family groups.

And all tastes are catered for including hiking adventures, zip-line experiences, helicopter rides, dining and stargazing trips, and relax days.

Itineraries, complete with contact information and timings, can be emailed to visitors in advance of arrival for approval with transportation and accommodation queries among the main enquiries.

AlUla residents recently started renting rooms in their homes to visitors, and hotel apartments and camp sites offer cheaper stay options to luxury resorts.

Taxis are available in AlUla and many of the main resorts provide their own cars for booked guests.

“We always look for the smallest details so the item at the end of the day is as flawless as possible, and it is as professional as it can get. We’re also supporting the local community. We call them ambassadors. We don’t have any expats in that position,” Fayez added.

The ambassadors are bilingual, fluent in English, ambitious, and highly trained to help international travelers with all their needs, while uniformed roving ambassadors with iPads are available to help advise tourists at designated sites.

All guests are encouraged to provide feedback to help visitor center officials improve guest services.

Fayez said: “I believe the visitor center experience will continue and operate throughout Saudi Arabia. When traveling to another country, having a visitor, welcome, or tourist center as a base for information and bookings is important.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2261296/saudi-arabia

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Saudi FM discusses bilateral relations with counterparts at G20 summit

March 02, 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with the US secretary of state and the Singaporean foreign affairs minister on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty summit in India, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The meetings were attended by Abdulrahman bin Arkan Al-Dawood, the director general of the office of the minister of foreign affairs.

During their meeting with American Secretary of State Antony Blinken, they discussed strategic relations and ways to strengthen cooperation in various fields between the two countries.

Prince Faisal and Blinken also reviewed developments on regional and international issues of mutual concern, including the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2261161/saudi-arabia

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Africa

 

Libya approves constitutional fix but no big breakthrough to elections

02 March ,2023

Libya’s High State Council voted on Thursday for a constitutional amendment intended to provide a basis for elections but there appeared to be little progress on big disagreements standing in the way of a national vote.

Earlier this week, a special United Nations envoy for Libya moved to take charge of a stalled political process in order to enable elections that are seen as the path to resolving years of conflict.

Libya has been locked in a political stalemate since late 2021 when a scheduled election was cancelled because of disputes over the rules and the eastern-based parliament, the House of Representatives, withdrew support from the interim government.

Peacemaking efforts since then have focused on getting the House of Representatives and the High State Council to agree on a constitutional basis for elections and on voting rules.

Thursday’s vote approved a constitutional amendment that was issued last month by the House of Representatives and was presented as step towards holding elections.

Foreign powers have long indicated that big political changes need the approval of both the House of Representatives and the High State Council under a 2015 agreement that was intended to establish a short transitional period that would ultimately resolve the conflict.

On Monday, UN envoy Abdoulaye Bathily cited that 2015 agreement to say he was setting up a steering committee of major Libyan figures to adopt a time-bound roadmap to elections.

In remarks that appeared aimed at both the House of Representatives, which was elected in 2014, and the High State Council, which emerged from a chamber elected in 2012, he said that “most institutions lost their legitimacy years ago.”

Speaking before it was approved, Bathily also described the amendment as “controversial within the Libyan political class and general citizenry,” noting it did not address contentious issues such as candidate eligibility or create a clear timeline for elections.

Many Libyans have grown skeptical that their political leaders are negotiating in good faith, saying their true goal is to delay any election that could cost them positions of power and privilege.

Tim Eaton of Chatham House think-tank in London said the amendment seemed aimed at making it harder to sideline the two chambers.

“There is a ‘breakthrough’ every time it looks like the House of Representatives and High State Council are going to lose control of the process,” he said.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/north-africa/2023/03/02/Libya-approves-constitutional-fix-but-no-big-breakthrough-to-elections

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Tunis governor refuses protest permit citing alleged plot

02 March ,2023

A Tunisian opposition coalition said on Thursday it would hold a demonstration on Sunday despite being denied permission by the authorities who cited an alleged plot against state security by the group’s leaders.

Leaders of the National Salvation Front coalition are among prominent opponents of President Kais Saied arrested over the past month on charges that the opposition says are politically motivated.

The governor of Tunis said in a statement that he was refusing permission for Sunday’s protest because of the charges against the National Salvation Front leaders.

The arrests, which also include other senior politicians, the owner of a major media outlet and a prominent businessman, represent the biggest crackdown on opponents of Saied since he seized most powers in 2021.

His opponents accuse him of a coup for shutting down the parliament, moving to rule by decree and writing a new constitution giving himself most powers that he passed in a referendum last year.

Saied has said his actions were legal and needed to save Tunisia from chaos, and he has promised to uphold rights and freedoms. Most protests since his seizure of powers have been permitted.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/north-africa/2023/03/02/Tunis-governor-refuses-protest-permit-citing-alleged-plot

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Human Rights Commission head meets Sudan justice minister in Geneva

March 02, 2023

GENEVA: President of the Saudi Human Rights Commission Hala Al-Tuwaijri met Sudan’s Minister of Justice Mohamed Saeed Al-Hilu and an accompanying delegation in Geneva.

The Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN and international organizations, Ambassador Abdulmohsen bin Khothaila also attended the meeting, which was held on the sidelines of the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in the Swiss city.

During the meeting, the two sides reviewed ties between Saudi Arabia and Sudan, and discussed issues of common interest.

They also tackled aspects of bilateral cooperation in various fields, especially in human rights, in addition to issues related to the work of the 52nd session of the council.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2261201/saudi-arabia

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Experts share views on new UN proposal for election process in Libya

March 03, 2023

WASHINGTON: A new UN proposal for holding legislative and presidential elections in Libya this year has sparked hopes among some that the oil-rich North African Arab country might soon enjoy a period of reconciliation and stability after years of armed conflict.

Political factions have been vying for power amid a crisis and impasse that has paralyzed the country for more than a decade, since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Despite a number of attempts to resolve the differences between warring groups and reach a consensus over the sharing of powers, Libya continues to be bitterly divided between the Government of National Accord in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east of the country allied with Gen. Khalifa Heftar, who commands the Libyan National Army. Each side is supported by various regional and international parties.

During a discussion session in Washington on Thursday, organized by the Middle East Institute and attended by Arab News, expert speakers shared their views of the current situation in Libya, with many emphasizing the need to reinvigorate the process for negotiations between rival groups so that an agreement might be reached and, ultimately, democratic elections held.

Earlier in the week, the UN’s envoy to Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, announced a new proposal for an election process.

He said that “building on previously reached agreements among Libyan stakeholders” he had “decided to launch an initiative aimed at enabling the organization and holding of presidential and legislative elections in 2023.”

Stephanie T. Williams, a non-resident senior fellow at nonprofit public policy organization the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle Eastern Policy and a former special advisor to the UN on Libya, said that while the situation in Libya is extremely complex, the primary impediment to elections is the “eligibility requirement” for candidates.

She said there is a democracy dilemma, in that prior constitutional negotiations showed that Libyans want a strong presidential system that can usher in stability and unity among the warring factions.

One of the key sticking points, Williams explained, is “who would come to power,” in light of previous elections in which “controversial candidates” created more friction than unity and ultimately brought the political process grinding to a halt.

Taher El-Soni, the Libyan ambassador to the UN, said during the session that the rival factions in the country have come to represent the interests of their foreign backers, resulting in even more conflict.

He argued there has always been support for an interim government that can organize and hold elections, on an accepted constitutional basis, but this has not happened because foreign countries and groups with conflicting interests have interfered in Libyan affairs.

The Libyan envoy acknowledged that the responsibility for the failure to reach an overarching agreement to resolve the conflict between rival groups lies not only with other countries in the region and beyond, or the UN, but also with Libyans themselves.

However, no single group has the power to impose order on the entire country, hence the long-running stalemate, El-Soni added.

“Libyans remain at the mercy of regional and international players (and their differing ideas of) how they want to deal with Libya,” he said.

“Libya cannot be disconnected from the geopolitics and the regional challenges that are happening all around. We are a playground as a result of those conflicts.”

El-Soni said it remains to be seen whether Bathily’s proposal can succeed and much would depend on the selection criteria for candidates.

Mary Fitzgerald, a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, specializing in the Euro-Mediterranean region with a particular focus on Libya, said that while the official reconciliation process continues to go round in circles, unofficial efforts are also taking place based on personal connections.

She said she has observed unusual, and unlikely, signs of rapprochement between some key figures who were previously at odds with each other but now appear to have reached agreement on certain issues.

Source: Arab News

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2261371/middle-east

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Peter Obi challenges winner of Nigeria presidential election Bola Tinubu

02 March 2023

The Nigerian candidate that finished third in the presidential election, Peter Obi, has challenged first-place Bola Tinubu, claiming he won the election despite officials saying otherwise.

The 61-year-old Obi, who is considered a political outsider, said on Thursday that he would prove that he won the vote, despite the official results confirming that Tinubu had won the presidential race.

“We will explore all legal and peaceful options to reclaim our mandate. We won the election and we will prove it to Nigerians,” Obi told reporters at a news briefing on Thursday in the capital, Abuja.

The Labor party candidate, who for many Nigerians represented hope for change, said the election “will go down as one of the most controversial elections ever conducted in Nigeria.”

“The good and hardworking people of Nigeria have again been robbed by our supposed leaders whom they trusted.”

Obi had framed himself as the anti-establishment candidate, hoping to harness the votes of the youth.

In the meantime, Tinubu -- the 70-year-old former governor of Lagos, senior politician, kingmaker and multimillionaire businessman --  was confirmed as the winner of the election and set to succeed the octogenarian President Muhammadu Buhari, who will step down in May after two terms.

Tinubu, who hails from Buhari's ruling All Progressives Congress political party, on Wednesday called on his rivals and their supporters to “join hands” with him, urging them to “come in so that we may begin the task of rebuilding our national home together.”

Meanwhile, out of some 25 million people in Nigeria who cast their votes on Saturday only three out of 18 candidates stood a realistic chance of winning the presidency and the collated results four days later on Wednesday by the country's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from all ballots gathered at voting centers nationwide showed Tinubu as the winner.

He bagged 8.8 million votes, hitting the required number of votes across two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states.

The former vice-president Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, gained second place with 6.9 million votes.

Obi came in third place with 6.1 million votes, according to results released by the INEC.

The INEC has dismissed the allegations of fraud and vote-rigging, confirming the election process was free and fair; however, it stated that candidates who want to file complaints have 21 days to bring their case to the courts.

Buhari came to power in 2015 at a time when abductions and severe bombings were being reported in Nigeria on an almost daily basis, most often attributed to Boko Haram, the extremist militant group that wreaked havoc in northeastern parts of Nigeria.

Source: Press TV

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/03/02/699197/Nigeria-Peter-Obi-Tinubu

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Protests greet Macron on Africa tour, Burkina Faso scraps military pact

02 March 2023

French President Emmanuel Macron has launched a tour of Africa with a message that France is not after meddling, but the visit revived old colonial wounds, sparking protests. 

Macron on Thursday said the era of French interference in Africa was "well over" as he began a four-nation tour of the continent to renew frayed ties.

Anti-French sentiment runs high in some former African colonies. Macron said France harbored no desire to return to past policies of interfering in Africa.

"The age of Francafrique is well over," Macron said in remarks to the French community in Gabon's capital Libreville, referring to France's post-colonization strategy of supporting authoritarian leaders to defend its interests.

"Francafrique" refers to the wave of decolonization in 1960 when France began propping up dictators in its former colonies in exchange for access to resources and military bases.

Macron landed in Gabon on Wednesday, the first stop of the tour that will also take the president to Angola, Congo Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"What is Macron doing in Gabon? Is he coming for the forest or to back (President) Ali Bongo?" asked  a 39-year-old technician. "If Macron wants to support the Bongo family, we will rise up," he said. "Gabon is an independent country. It is not France that appoints Gabonese presidents."

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), angry protesters gathered in front of the French embassy in Kinshasa, spray-painting anti-French graffiti on its wall and chanting "Macron is a killer!"

They unfurled banners reading, "Macron is the godfather of DRC balkanization," "Congolese say no to French policy," and "Macron is an unwanted guest in DRC".

More than 3,000 French soldiers are deployed in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Gabon and Djibouti, according to official figures.

Burkina Faso said it has scrapped a 1961 agreement on military assistance with France, only weeks after it told the French ambassador and troops to quit the country.

The Burkinabe foreign ministry advised the French government that the country was "renouncing the technical military assistance agreement reached in Paris on April 24 1961," according to the correspondence, dated Tuesday.

The ministry said Burkina was giving one month's notice for "the final departure of all French military personnel serving in Burkinabe military administrations."

Burkina also gave France a month to pull out a special forces unit of 400 men that was based near the capital. The French flag was lowered on the base last month.

Source: Press TV

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/03/02/699182/Macron-Gabon-Sahel

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Europe

 

Manchester Arena inquiry finds MI5 missed significant chance to prevent suicide bombing

Mehmet Solmaz  

03.03.2023

BIRMINGHAM, England

British intelligence agency MI5 missed a “significant” opportunity to prevent a suicide bombing after a concert at Manchester Arena in 2017, an inquiry into the deadly attack concluded Thursday.

Twenty-two people died and hundreds were injured after Salman Abedi detonated a homemade bomb when families arrived at the arena to collect their children following a concert by the American singer Ariana Grande.

The report says the MI5 received intelligence on Abedi twice in the months before the bombing but failed to detect the plot.

"There was a realistic possibility that actionable intelligence could have been obtained which might have led to actions preventing the attack," said the inquiry's third and final report.

The inquiry had heard that Abedi had been on the radar of the security services for seven years before the bombing.

The lengthy report also looks into how Abedi was radicalized and how he planned the bombing attack.

The report, published by former high court judge Sir John Saunders, also identified problems with the sharing of information between the security service and counter-terrorism police.

“It remains quite impossible to say whether any different or additional action taken by the authorities could have prevented the attack. It might have done; it might not have done,” the report said.

Following the publication of the report, Sir John shared his comments on a live stream.

“It is not possible to reach any conclusion on the balance of probabilities or to any other evidential standard as to whether the attack would have been prevented. However, there was a realistic possibility that actionable intelligence could have been obtained which might have led to actions preventing the attack.”

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/manchester-arena-inquiry-finds-mi5-missed-significant-chance-to-prevent-suicide-bombing/2835900

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UK pledges to work with European allies to support Turkish quake victims

Sumeyye Dilara Dincer  

03.03.2023

The British government will work closely with its European allies to support Türkiye during an EU donor conference which will be held in Brussels on March 16.

Speaking to Anadolu during his visit to New Delhi for the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, British top diplomat James Cleverly said: “We will work very closely with our friends in Europe to make sure we continue supporting Türkiye through the response to this earthquake and then ultimately, of course, to the rebuilding of the homes that the people who have lost their homes and so desperately in need.”

On Feb. 8, the European Commission announced their intention to host a donors' conference, in coordination with the Turkish authorities, to mobilize funds from the international community in support of the people of Türkiye and Syria following the devastating earthquakes, according to a European Commission statement.

“Türkiye is an important friend and ally to the United Kingdom and when we saw the terrible earthquakes that had hit Türkiye, it was heartbreaking. So we were very keen to give support quickly with the search and rescue teams, but also to give humanitarian support.”

Commenting on calls to initiate a visa scheme for the quake victims, Cleverly said he does not have any news about any changes to the visa relationships with Türkiye, and added: “But we know that Türkiye will be an important partner and friend and ally to the UK for years to come. And of course, we want to make sure that Turkish people and British people get to visit each other's countries, perhaps working in each other's countries and get to know each other better. And this will always be at the forefront of our thinking when we look at how we work with Türkiye in the future.”

After Ankara made an international call for help as part of its level-4 alert after the quakes, a team of 77 people, including doctors, firefighters, and engineers, from UK International Search and Rescue (ISAR) was deployed in Hatay, Türkiye's southernmost province and one of the worst hit by the disaster.

The British Foreign Secretary said his government is keen to hold strong relations between the two states and praised the contribution of the Turkish society in the UK. “We very much value our close relationship with Türkiye and there are many people of Turkish heritage in the UK. They contribute enormously to British society and to the British economy. We always make sure that we find ways of working closely with our friends.” 

UK to continue supporting Ukraine for allies

Cleverly reiterated his country's Ukraine policy, saying the UK will continue to support Kyiv until they have successfully defended themselves.

“We've supplied anti tank missiles. We supplied main battle tanks and now we are training their pilots and their marines to help them defend themselves in the future. We will continue to work with Ukraine talking to them about what they need. And we will also talk with our friends in the international community to make sure that together, we are giving Ukraine the equipment they need to defend themselves, but also the equipment to repair the energy supplies, their water supplies, and the humanitarian aid that they need to get through this tough winter. We will we will keep supporting Ukraine until they win.”

Almost 12 months have passed since Russia declared a "special military operation" in Ukraine, which has resulted in the deaths of at least 8,006 civilians and 13,287 injuries, according to UN figures. 

UK government happy to reach agreement over Northern Ireland

The UK and European Union on Monday struck a new deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol, replacing it with what is called the Windsor framework after persistent disputes over post-Brexit trade arrangements.

The British foreign secretary said: “The Northern Ireland protocol was making it very difficult for one part of our country to do business with another part of our own country. So I'm very pleased that we were able to get a resolution on this with the Windsor framework. I'm very pleased that we're able to resolve this long standing issue, which is good news for the people of Northern Ireland. And I think also good news for our relationship with the European Union.”

With border checks on certain goods, the superseded Northern Ireland Protocol had created a de facto trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/uk-pledges-to-work-with-european-allies-to-support-turkish-quake-victims/2835886

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US, UK congratulate Tinubu on Nigeria election win as legal challenge looms

Hassan Isilow  

02.03.2023

JOHANNESBURG

The US and UK have congratulated Bola Tinubu on his victory in Nigeria’s Feb. 25 presidential election, despite lingering uncertainty over the win as the opposition plans to mount a legal challenge.

“We call on all parties, candidates, and supporters to refrain from violence or inflammatory rhetoric at this critical time,” Ned Price, spokesperson for the State Department, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Many Nigerians have raised concerns after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) decided to manually transmit results, opting against using an existing instant transmission system.

The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has announced it will challenge the results in court.

According to the official count, Tinubu took top spot in the presidential race with 8.7 million votes, followed by the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar on 6.9 million and Labor Party candidate Peter Obi with 6.1 million.

“We understand that many Nigerians and some of the parties have expressed frustration about the manner in which the process was conducted and the shortcomings of technical elements that were used for the first time in a presidential election cycle,”Price said.

“There are well-established mechanisms in place for the adjudication of electoral disputes, and we encourage any candidate or party seeking to challenge the outcome to pursue redress through those mechanisms,” he added.

The US joins “other international observers in urging INEC to improve in the areas that need the most attention ahead of the March 11 gubernatorial elections,” the statement further said.

Over in the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took to Twitter to congratulate Tinubu on his win.

“The UK-Nigeria relationship remains strong. I look forward to working together to grow our security and trade ties, opening up opportunities for businesses and creating prosperity in both our countries,” he said.

Tinubu, 70, will succeed President Muhammadu Buhari as the leader of Africa’s largest democracy and economy.

Buhari became president in 2015 and his tenure was marked by security threats and economic issues.

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/us-uk-congratulate-tinubu-on-nigeria-election-win-as-legal-challenge-looms/2835679

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British navy seizes 'anti-tank weapons, ballistic missile components' in Gulf of Oman

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal 

02.03.2023

LONDON

British navy “seized anti-tank weapons and ballistic missile components being smuggled” in the Gulf of Oman, Royal Navy said in a statement Thursday.

The raid on Feb. 23 came after a high-speed boat chase from Royal Marines and scrambling with a helicopter as the vessel was in international waters, after a tip off from US army aircraft.

“The smugglers tried to evade the ever-present 815 Naval Air Squadron helicopter and ignored every radio call demanding them to stop – instead steering their craft towards Iranian territorial waters,” the statement said.

“They were intercepted by the British frigate before they could do so.”

The navy said naval soldiers boarding the vessel found a number of packages.

The Royal Marines boarding team who searched the suspect craft found a number of packages and found “Iranian versions of Russian 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missiles – known in Iran as ‘Dehlavieh’ – and medium-range ballistic missile components” on board, according to the statement.

“The chase was sparked when an American drone spotted the skiff moving at speed through international waters in the darkness.”

Source: Anadolu Agency

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/british-navy-seizes-anti-tank-weapons-ballistic-missile-components-in-gulf-of-oman/2835475

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France says Iran uranium enrichment ‘very concerning’

02 March ,2023

France on Thursday called developments in Iran’s nuclear program “very concerning” after the UN nuclear watchdog reported finding uranium particles enriched just under the 90 percent needed for an atomic bomb.

“This report states that the direction Iran is taking is very concerning,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters, adding this development was “unprecedented and extremely serious.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Tuesday that it had detected particles of uranium enriched to up to 83.7 percent, only just short of the 90 percent needed to produce a nuclear device.

Last week, Iran claimed it had not made any attempt to enrich uranium beyond 60 percent.

The head of the IAEA is to meet with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on Saturday to try to “relaunch the dialogue” on the country’s atomic work, a diplomatic source said Wednesday.

Source: Al Arabiya

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://english.alarabiya.net/News/middle-east/2023/03/02/France-says-Iran-uranium-enrichment-very-concerning-

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Pakistan

 

Supervisors Must Act As Mentors, Not Punishers, Rules Supreme Court

Nasir Iqbal

March 3, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has held that supervisory officer in any organisation should perform more like a mentor than a punishing authority by cracking whip on finding a fault in the performance of his subordinates.

The primary duty of a supervisor is to guide his subordinates to improve their per­formance and efficiency, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah wrote in a judgement iss­ued on Thursday in a case on a promotion dispute in the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

Justice Shah headed a three-judge bench that had taken up an appeal of the IB’s director general against a June 16, 2022 order of the Federal Service Tribunal (FST).

In its order, the FST had allowed appeals of respondents namely Riazul Wahab and Surkharu Khan and expunged adverse remarks recorded by the countersigning officer in their performance evaluation reports (PERs) and restored the assessment of their performance made by the reporting officers.

The respondents had joined the IB as assistant directors (BS-17) in 2001 and 2003, respectively. They were promoted as deputy director (BS-18) and director (BS-19) in due course for having an “unblemished and meritorious service record”.

IB’s appeal against service tribunal’s decision in promotion case dismissed

In Mr Wahab’s PERs, his reporting officer evaluated his performance as “very good” and “outstanding” and recorded him as “fit for promotion.”

Whereas in Mr Khan’s PERs, his rep­orting officer evaluated his performance as “good” and “very good” and recorded him as “fit for promotion”. But their countersigning officer downgraded their performance evaluation to “average” and declared them “unfit for promotion.”

The respondents preferred departmental appeals against the countersigning officer’s remarks. The appeal of Mr Wahab was not responded to while that of Mr Khan was rejected.

Consequently, they approached the FST which allowed their appeals.

In his judgement, Justice Shah observed that supervisory officers should see, having regard to the temperament of the officer concerned, whether the advice or warning given orally or in written form, or given publically in a general meeting of the officers or privately in a separate meeting with the concerned officer, would be beneficial for the officer in improving his performance.

It said the purpose of counselling was to improve the performance of the officer and not to insult or intimidate him.

The judgement said PERs were the most important documents in the service record of civil servants, which help the competent authorities in making informed decisions with regards to personnel administration matters, such as, selection for training, appointments/transfers, promotions, confirmations or screening of civil servants.

An officer’s promotion and retention in service mostly depends on what has been recorded in PER. It is, therefore, essential that PERs are written by the reporting and countersigning officers most carefully and responsibly, the judgement said.

If the reporting or the countersigning officer is partial, his opinion is likely to cause incalculable damage to the officer reported upon, and if a PER is ambiguous or carelessly written, it would not serve the true purpose of recording PERs.

Therefore, the reporting and countersigning officers should evaluate the performance of the officer reported upon in a detached and objective manner, the judgement said.

The respondents asserted that no adv­ice or warning was ever given to them by the countersigning officer before recording the adverse remarks and there is nothing on the record of the case to controvert their assertion, the judgement noted.

In the present case, it explained, the countersigning officer did not mention in the PERs that he had counselled the respondents for improving their performance nor did he justify his departure from the above rule of making prior counselling before recording the adverse remarks. He also did not give specific reasons for his disagreement with the evaluation of the reporting officers, the judgement said, highlighting a gross violation of the instructions by the countersigning officer in recording the adverse remarks in the PERs of the respondents.

Thus, the judgement said, the tribunal has rightly expunged the same and therefore there was no legal flaw in the FST decision.

Source: Dawn

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1740093/supervisors-must-act-as-mentors-not-punishers-rules-sc

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Pakistanis paying heavily for Bajwa’s ‘regime change conspiracy’: Imran

March 3, 2023

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and former premier Imran Khan Thursday blasted former army chief General (r) Qamar Javed Bajwa and the incumbent PDM government for “pushing Pakistan deep into the economic turmoil” and blamed them for the prevailing financial woes of the country.

Since his ouster, the PTI chief has maintained that the no-confidence motion against him was a “huge foreign conspiracy against Pakistan” that he claimed was carried out by the United States.

Recently, however, Imran has shifted his focus away from the alleged role of the US in his ouster and towards former COAS Bajwa instead.

In an interview with Financial Times in November, Imran had signalled a desire to work with Washington saying he wants to mend relations with the US despite accusing it of treating Pakistan as a ‘slave’.

The former premier had said he no longer “blamed” the US and wants a “dignified” relationship if re-elected.

Then in Februrary, the PTI chief gave an interview to Voice of America where he had levelled accusations against Gen Bajwa claiming he “conspired with his political opponents to remove him from office with help from the US”.

Later in the interview, he retracted the accusations he had made against the US and squarely blamed Gen Bajwa for his ordeal saying “it wasn’t the US who told Pakistan [to oust me]. It was unfortunately, from what evidence has come up, Gen Bajwa who somehow managed to tell the Americans that I was anti-American.” The ouster plan “wasn’t imported from there. It was exported from here to there”.

Continuing his attack on the Bajwa and the incumbent government, Imran said that “Pakistanis are paying a heavy price of the regime change conspiracy where a “bunch of criminals have been foisted upon nation by ex COAS”.

“Rupee slaughtered,” Imran exclaimed as he noted that the Pakistani currency has “lost over 62% or 110/$ in 11 months of PDM.”

“This has increased public debt alone by Rs 14.3 trn & historic 75 yr high inflation of 31.5%”, he said.

The former prime minister’s tweet came after the Pakistani rupee plunged 8.29% (or Rs24.07) to a new all-time low of Rs290.18 against the US dollar in the interbank market at around noon on Thursday.

Inflation in Pakistan has skyrocketed to the highest level of 31.5% in half a century — becoming the 17th most expensive country in the world –after the government massively raised energy and fuel prices coupled with the adverse impacts of currency devaluation and imports at a halt.

Data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Wednesday suggested that the country was fast heading towards hyperinflation, with at least four consumer goods’ groups already in the territory of around 50% surge in prices on a yearly basis.

Source: Pakistan Today

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2023/03/03/pakistanis-paying-heavily-for-bajwas-regime-change-conspiracy-imran/

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FIA nabs ‘traffickers’; FO confirms 7 deaths in Libya wreck

March 3, 2023

LAHORE/RAWALPINDI: The number of Pakistanis killed in a migrant boat wreck off the coast of Libya last week has risen to seven, the Foreign Office confirmed on Thursday, as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested three alleged traffickers responsible for sending migrants down the ill-fated route that culminated in a shipwreck off the coast of southern Italy.

At the weekly briefing in Islamabad, FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told reporters that so far, seven Pakistani nationals had perished in the boat wreck near Benghazi.

The Pakistani mission in Libya is facilitating the identification of the bodies and transportation of the mortal remains to Pakistan, with the support of local authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross, she said. “The embassy and ministry of foreign affairs are also in contact with the families of the deceased,” Ms Baloch said.

Talking about the tragic wreck off the coast of Italy, she said that so far, authorities had confirmed that 17 Pakistanis were rescued, while two individuals were killed and two are still missing.

She said that the government was being cautious in making announcements as “it is difficult for authorities and especially our embassies to ascertain details about individuals who may not have their papers with them”.

“These tragic incidents take place when unscrupulous individuals try to take advantage of people who may be interested in traveling abroad for livelihood. The government of Pakistan is very cognizant of the situation and measures are being taken to address it,” she said.

FIA arrests

Meanwhile, in a statement on Thursday, FIA Punjab revealed that the three men in custody would take money from the families of those they illegally sent to Europe.

Three agents – Raja Raheel, Sufian and Mohammad Zahid Sanyara of Gujrat – would receive money from the families of those sent to Libya, said a statement issued on Thursday, adding that the amount received from them was transferred to the gang leader abroad.

The agency, it said, was working to track down all the agents involved in trafficking people to Libya from the Gujrat belt. “More arrests are expected in coming days,” the agency said.

According to the FIA, human smugglers usually charge a substantial amount from anyone aspiring to reach Turkey via the Balochistan-Iran-Turkiye land route.

Source: Dawn

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1740096

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‘Militants’ killed, Nadra office attacked in Kech

Behram Baloch

March 3, 2023

GWADAR: Two alleged militants were killed in an exchange of fire with security forces in Shapok and Sammi areas of Kech district on Thursday.

Officials said security forces had launched a search operation on a tip-off about the presence of suspected militants in the mountainous area of Kech district.

The alleged militants were identified as Shoaib and Yahya who belonged to a banned outfit, according to officials.

In another incident, unknown attackers ransacked the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) office in the Bal-Nagor area of Kech district.

Source: Dawn

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1740129/militants-killed-nadra-office-attacked-in-kech

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PPP, MQM-P not ready to soften their stance on census

Imran Ayub

March 3, 2023

KARACHI: Just a day after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif assured coalition partners of steps to address their concerns over the digital census process, the key partners in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government on Thursday came up with their tough stances with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) warning that any count of Karachi population below 40 million would not be acceptable to it and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) expressing serious concerns over its “fairness and transparency” announced to set up a party cell to gather complaints against the massive exercise.

First, it was MQM-P leader Dr Farooq Sattar who pointed out “basic flaws” in the whole design of the national census and demanded the authorities concerned to take notice of loopholes identified by the party.

He also questioned the calculation under which Karachi was distributed in 16,000 blocks for the population count.

“There should be no fewer than 27,000 blocks in Karachi for the census,” he said while addressing a press conference at the party’s temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad.

“And make one thing very clear. The population of Karachi is more than 40 million. Any attempt or exercise, that results in the total number of population of the city below 40 or 42 million, would not be accepted by the MQM-P. Anyone who lives and earns in this city must be counted as number of Karachi population.”

The MQM-P leader criticised the political parties for “ignoring” the crucial census and most of them were paying attention to politics of the upcoming elections and the current crisis in Islamabad.

He invited all the parties in Karachi to design a joint strategy for a fair count of the city population.

He also accused the PPP-led Sindh government of facilitating the “manoeuvring” of the Karachi population number and referred to reports, which claimed that deputy commissioner of one of the districts had strictly directed the census staff to not to count children below five years.

“Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui [the MQM-P convenor] has recently held a meeting with the prime minister,” said Dr Sattar.

“He has assured us of addressing our concerns, which we appreciate. But we have things on ground that every attempt is being made to make this exercise disputed. Whether it’s federal government, provincial government or district administration, everyone has to be fair in this process. We would question everyone if something goes wrong.”

The PPP on the other hand came up with other concerns on the exercise.

In a statement issued after the party meeting chaired by the Sindh Labour and Human Resource Minister, Saeed Ghani, who is also its Karachi chapter president, it expressed “serious reservations” on the digital census in Karachi and demanded that the process to count the population of the city “should be conducted in a fair and transparent manner”.

“It is the responsibility of every concerned quarter in Sindh that the population of the province is accurately counted,” it said. “The PPP Karachi Division also decided to establish a cell to receive complaints against the newly launched digital census campaign. The census should be conducted in a fair and transparent manner in order to determine the population of Sindh in an accurate manner.”

Mr Ghani addressing the meeting said that the delimitation of constituencies would also be carried out in a valid manner after a fair census drive. The fiscal share of a province in the National Finance Commission award, he said, was also determined on the basis of the population count.

“The PPP had vocally raised objections against the flawed census drive of 2017 as the issue was raised at the Council of Common Interests and other relevant forums. The PPP should also be given the credit that a fresh census was being conducted in the country merely after five years instead of the stipulated time of 10 years,” the statement quoted Mr Ghani as saying.

PPP Sindh General Secretary Senator Waqar Mehdi, while addressing a meeting, said that an awareness campaign should be conducted to let the people know about the benefits of the census drive. In this regard, a special campaign should be conducted to make household women know of the benefits of the census, he added.

Meanwhile, Sindh governor Kamran Khan Tessori was confident that issues being raised by different political parties would be resolved. Talking to reporters while inaugurating seventh census at the Governor House, he suggested the role of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) for fairness of the process.

“There should be a mechanism for masses to check with Nadra, whether they have been counted or not,” he suggested.

“The Nadra may be approached to ensure the same option. Entry of correct data is essential as judicious distribution of resources is dependent on the same. As the digital census is being held for the first time, various issues are being faced which would be resolved.”

Source: Dawn

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1740051/ppp-mqm-p-not-ready-to-soften-their-stance-on-census

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JI, PPP trade barbs as controversy over Jan 15 LG polls’ results re-emerges

March 3, 2023

KARACHI: In a re-emerging controversy surrounding the local government polls held in Karachi more than a month ago, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the two leading entities in the contest, came face-to-face on Thursday. The JI, a right wing opposition party, also accused the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of conniving with the ruling PPP in changing the results of the seats it had won during recounting, and warned the government of a sit-in across the city if the constitutional body failed to rectify the results of the Jan 15 polls and announce voting in the remaining 11 union councils.

The PPP, on the other hand, came up with a strong reaction over JI’s accusations and accused the JI of using threats and force as a tool to undermine and pressurise a legal process, being carried out by the ECP on complaints of certain candidates.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters, Idara Noor-i-Haq, JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman shared details of what he described as ‘post-poll rigging’ going on in the name of recounting on the seats which his party had won in Jan 15 polls.

“We will wait for another week to let the Election Commission rectify the results of the LG elections and announce polling in the remaining 11 union councils,” he said.

“If it doesn’t happen, we will go for a prolonged sit-in across the city from March 10. The Jamaat-i-Islami should not be mistaken for those who had sold out their mandate against posts and perks of administrators. We will safeguard our votes and restore our mandate.”

Hafiz Naeem repeats allegation of EC’s connivance with ruling party; Ghani asks him to stop propaganda

Hafiz Naeem referred to the “ill-intentions” of the PPP government in Sindh due to the alleged flaws in the process of recounting which was recently held in the UC-6, Safoora Town.

The bags carrying ballot papers, he said, were found torn but the returning officer and district returning officer did not bother to take notice of that despite the fact that their attention was drawn to the incidents.

“Similarly, all our 50 votes at a polling station were shown as rejected in the recounting as opposed to the Form 11 and 12,” added the JI chief.

“In the process, only those votes were shown as rejected in the recounting which were in favour of the JI. The RO and the DRO didn’t receive applications against flaws. They also refused to show the record of the remaining ballot papers.”

At one of the processes, he said, a sibling of a PPP candidate in a UC was appointed as presiding officer in the same UC. The ECP was responsible to appoint unbiased staffers after thorough examination, but the PPP government was pressuring government employees to manipulate the electoral process.

Hours after the JI press conference, Sindh Labour and Human Resource Minister Saeed Ghani, who is also the Karachi division president of PPP, accused the JI of using pressure tactics by telling lies and launching a propaganda campaign.

Source: Dawn

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1740047/ji-ppp-trade-barbs-as-controversy-over-jan-15-lg-polls-results-re-emerges

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US to provide modern equipment to KP police, says envoy

March 3, 2023

PESHAWAR: US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome has pledged to provide modern equipment to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police.

In a meeting with IGP Akhtar Hayat here on Thursday, he appreciated the steps taken by police to combat militancy and assured the department of full cooperation.

A delegation of the US mission and International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), led by the US ambassador, met Mr Hayat at central police office and discussed various activities launched by INL regarding increasing manpower and capacity of KP police.

The IGP informed the delegation about the training programme and scientific investigation provided to cops and reorganisation and upgradation of counter-terrorism department to effectively combat terrorism.

He said that separate desks were established in most of the police stations to exclusively resolve women issues.

Meanwhile, the US ambassador said that United States helped Pakistan for 75 years to advance economic growth and build a bright future for its people.

He said strengthening and modernising the agriculture sector of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was critical for ensuring food security, economic stability and climate resilience.

He was addressing a gathering after launching a US-funded Economic Recovery and Development Activity (Erda) here on Thursday.

Erda, a five-year initiative, is being implemented by Associates in Development (AID). The initiative is meant to expand economic opportunities in KP by strengthening and modernising agriculture sector and promoting micro, small and medium enterprises.

According to the US ambassador, 2,000 businessmen and thousands of families affected by floods would benefit from the project. “This activity is going to help the agriculture sector to develop new products and markets as well as boost small and medium enterprises,” he told journalists.

Earlier, Mr Blome stated that the US government helped to restore the irrigation channels to hard-hit areas in KP following 2010 floods and enabled farmers to plant wheat and avoid food insecurity. He added that since 2014, the US government helped more than one million displaced persons to rehabilitate their agricultural-based livelihoods in the newly merged districts.

Source: Dawn

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1739985/us-to-provide-modern-equipment-to-kp-police-says-envoy

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Jadhav remains a living proof of Indian hostility, state-sponsored terrorism against Pakistan

March 2, 2023

ISLAMABAD: As Kulbhushan Jadhav remains a living proof of Indian hostility and state-sponsored terrorism against Pakistan, the world must take notice of Indian inimical designs and policy of aggression against its neighbors.

Kulbhushan Jadhav, alias Hussain Mubarek Patel, an Indian (spy) terrorist, was apprehended on 3 March 2016 during a counter-intelligence operation from Mashkel, Balochistan while he was travelling to Pakistan on an Iranian passport.

A serving Indian Navy officer, Jadhav was involved in espionage, acts of terrorism, and sabotage against the state of Pakistan.

According to security experts, Jadhav was running a network of terror to sponsor terrorism in Pakistan. His cynical activities cost Pakistan thousands of lives and hence he was awarded the death sentence in April 2017 by the Field General Court Martial (FGCM).

Jadhav joined the Indian National Defence Academy in 1987 and was commissioned in the engineering branch of the Indian Navy in 1991. During his service years, he was promoted to the rank of Naval Commander.

He was tipped by the Indian spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in 2013 to pursue subversive activities in Karachi and Balochistan.

His job was to hold meetings with Baloch insurgents and collaborate with them to carry out terrorist activities, leading to the killing or maiming of thousands Pakistani citizens.

Jadhav, in pursuit of targets set by his RAW handlers, was arrested by Pakistani intelligence agencies on March 3, 2016, when he attempted to cross over into the country from the Saravan border in Iran.

During interrogation Jadhav revealed that at Wadh, Khuzdar, he was in contact with Haji Baloch, who provided financial and logistic support to Baloch separatists and the Islamic State network in Karachi.

He also said that the masterminds of the Safoora bus attack, where gunmen shot dead 45 Ismaili passengers, were also in contact with Haji Baloch.

Jadhav added that he had met Haji Baloch several times, sometimes for planning sectarian violence in Karachi and the rest of Sindh.

Upon information provided by Jadhav, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies arrested hundreds of under-cover operatives working to sabotage peace in Pakistan, saving thousands of innocent lives from potential harm.

Source: Pakistan Today

Please click the following URL to read the full text of the original story:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2023/03/02/jadhav-remains-a-living-proof-of-indian-hostility-state-sponsored-terrorism-against-pakistan/

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